Skip to main content

Libya: Dozens of Chinese nationals arrested for cryptocurrency mining

A matrix of wires connecting digital conversion systems, data servers and refrigerators was discovered in an abandoned factory
Equipment used inside an abandoned factory to mine cryptocurrency in the city of Zliten was discovered by Libyan authorities (Attorney General Office)

Libyan authorities have arrested 50 Chinese nationals allegedly involved in an illegal cryptocurrency mining operation in the city of Zliten, the Libyan attorney general's office announced on Friday.

Those arrested were caught running a cryptocurrency mining farm inside an abandoned iron factory on Libya's western coast, the statement said.

The office of the attorney general, Siddiq Al-Sour, disclosed photos and videos showcasing the process of dismantling substantial mining systems discovered in Zliten, a city east of Tripoli province.

The mining systems included a matrix of wires connecting digital conversion systems, data servers, fans and high-voltage refrigerators.

These latest arrests were announced just after 10 other Chinese nationals were arrested in Misrata on Wednesday after being caught "red-handed" with dozens of powerful computers used to conduct complex mining calculations, which were seized, according to the attorney general's office.

Stay informed with MEE's newsletters

Sign up to get the latest alerts, insights and analysis, starting with Turkey Unpacked


The attorney general's office added that these acts "violate the law", as the alleged perpetrators use "high-energy devices [that] harness a large amount of material to mine cryptocurrencies".

The statement said that Libyan authorities were seeking the help of experts to assess "the damage to public money and public interest... as a result of the use of high-energy devices and the violation of the rules of monetary policy".

Despite an official ban on it, Libya recorded the highest percentage across the African continent of cryptocurrency mining, accounting for approximately 0.6 percent of the world's Bitcoin production in 2021.

Libya is known for its cheap electricity costs, standing at a mere $0.004 per kilowatt hour, which is around 40 times cheaper than the US. This has made Libya an ideal setting for cryptocurrency mining, but has also contributed to the already battered electricity grids in the country due to the political instability plaguing the country for over a decade.

Power blackouts last up to 18 hours a day during the summer months, as authorities intensify their efforts to crack down on such activities, investigating alleged mining sites in Tripoli and Misrata.

Middle East Eye delivers independent and unrivalled coverage and analysis of the Middle East, North Africa and beyond. To learn more about republishing this content and the associated fees, please fill out this form. More about MEE can be found here.