Are Abkhaz gov’t officials importing cryptomining equipment despite ban?
A large batch of cryptocurrency mining equipment has been allowed to pass customs in Abkhazia, sparking a scandal given that Abkhazia has had a ban on the import of such tech for several months now in order to curb the industry’s use of electric power.
The owner of the equipment is allegedly a minibus driver, but many in Abkhazia believe that the real owner is someone from the presidential administration.
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The order signed by Prime Minister Alexander Ankvab for the import of the equipment appeared on December 23 on a Telegram channel. Then this was confirmed by the same minibus driver Igor Khurkhumal.
Mining has become the main reason for the large-scale energy crisis in Abkhazia, when for several months electricity appears only for a few hours a day.
On October 20, 2020, the authorities banned the import of mining equipment, and on December 1, they banned mining itself. But Igor Khurkhumal still received permission to import a very large batch – 1,747 pieces of equipment for mining.
And another batch of 658 units was imported by the same order for installation at the only private hydroelectric power station in Abkhazia, the Sukhum hydroelectric power station.
In his letter of confession, which was posted on the website of the Apsnypress news agency, Khurhumal explains that he borrowed money and ordered the equipment in September, when the government still allowed mining farms to operate.
However, the equipment came with a delay, and by this time a decree had already been adopted to ban the import of mining equipment (October 20).
Given the circumstances, the authorities still allowed him to collect the cargo.
Khurkhumal promises that for now the equipment will simply be stored in his house.
However, the veracity of the story that Khurkhumal tells has caused great doubts among many in Abkhazia.
The consignment of the imported equipment is estimated at about 25-30 million rubles [about $400 thousand].
Many experts and participants in the discussions on social media doubt that a simple minibus driver could have come up with such an amount. It is believed that the real owner of the imported batch of crypto equipment is someone from the presidential entourage.
Another batch of equipment, which, according to the documents, was intended to be installed at the Sukhum hydroelectric station, has an unusual context.
A month ago, one of the owners of this hydroelectric power station, Rezo Zantaria, in an interview with the state TV channel, said that there are no and cannot be mining farms at Sukhum, since the hydroelectric power station does not have the appropriate technical parameters.
Rezo Zantaria has not yet commented on the situation with the equipment delivered for his hydroelectric power station.