Bitcoin craze hits Iran as US sanctions squeeze weak economy

This undated photo provided by the Police News Agency, shows boxes of machinery used in Bitcoin "mining" operations that were confiscated by police in Nazarabad, Iran. Squeezed by sanctions and fueled by subsidized electricity, Iranians and others lured to the country increasingly are turning to Bitcoin and other digital cryptocurrencies. Some mine for the currency. That involves harnessing the power of their computers to verify and secure other users’ transactions around the world so that the same bitcoin isn’t spent twice. They are given new bitcoins as rewards. (News.police.ir via AP)
This undated photo provided by the Police News Agency, shows boxes of machinery used in Bitcoin "mining" operations that were confiscated by police in Nazarabad, Iran. Squeezed by sanctions and fueled by subsidized electricity, Iranians and others lured to the country increasingly are turning to Bitcoin and other digital cryptocurrencies. Some mine for the currency. That involves harnessing the power of their computers to verify and secure other users’ transactions around the world so that the same bitcoin isn’t spent twice. They are given new bitcoins as rewards. (News.police.ir via AP)
This undated photo provided by the Police News Agency, shows boxes of machinery used in Bitcoin "mining" operations that were confiscated by police in Nazarabad, Iran. Squeezed by sanctions and fueled by subsidized electricity, Iranians and others lured to the country increasingly are turning to Bitcoin and other digital cryptocurrencies. Some mine for the currency. That involves harnessing the power of their computers to verify and secure other users’ transactions around the world so that the same bitcoin isn’t spent twice. They are given new bitcoins as rewards. (News.police.ir via AP)

TEHRAN, Iran — Iranians feeling the squeeze from U.S. sanctions targeting the Islamic Republic's ailing economy are increasingly turning to such digital currencies as Bitcoin to make money.

This has prompted alarm in and out of the country.

In Iran, some government officials worry that the energy-hungry process of "mining" Bitcoin is abusing Iran's system of subsidized electricity.

In the United States, some observers have warned that cryptocurrencies could be used to bypass the Trump administration's sanctions targeting Iran over its unraveling nuclear deal with world powers.

The Bitcoin craze has made the front pages of Iranian newspapers and has been discussed by some of the country's top ayatollahs, and there have also been televised police raids on hidden computer farms set up to bring in money by "mining" the currency.

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