Berlin - Two men have been arrested in Germany for hijacking other people's computers to generate a digital currency, the bitcoin, that has been at the centre of a global bout of speculating, police said Wednesday.
They are being held on suspicion of computer fraud by creating bitcoins worth 700 000 euros (950 000 dollars).
Bitcoins, which are outside the regulation of any country or banking authority, are a currency that only exists as software in an open online system. Their value has gyrated as investors have sought to buy into the business.
The men were arrested by an elite police unit Monday night, the public prosecutor in Kempten, in Germany's Alpine foothills, said. A third person is also under suspicion, but will not be arrested, police said.
Each bitcoin is merely a string of numbers created by complex calculations, supervised by many computers.
To “mint” each new bitcoin, time-consuming computing is required. Police say those arrested in Germany infected strangers' computers with viruses and linked them up on the internet to create a botnet which they employed to generate new bitcoins.
A police spokeswoman said the bitcoins were confiscated and placed in a digital “wallet” that is under police control.
The inquiry began mid-year.