A team of Russian nuclear engineers have been arrested for allegedly using a powerful government supercomputer to mine Bitcoin.

The number of scientists has not been specified, but they are understood to have worked at the restricted Russian Research Institute of Experimental Physics (RFNC-VNIIEF), located in the city of Sarov, Nizhny Novgorod.

Tatyana Zalesskaya, head of the institute’s press service, confirmed the arrests to Interfax.

She added that she understood a criminal case has been brought against the engineers.

Similar attempts have recently been registered in a number of large companies with large computing capacities, which will be severely suppressed at our enterprises, this is technically a hopeless and criminal offence, Ms Zalesskaya added.

Bitcoin mining is essentially a difficult computational process that the decentralised currency uses to keep records of which Bitcoin is where up to date.

Bitcoin enthusiasts are rewarded lucratively for mining the cryptocurrency with a stash of newly minted cryptographically-signed Bitcoin.

Using a supercomputer, miners would be able to solve the complex puzzles required to create more Bitcoin much quicker than a traditional computer would have been able to.

The digital cash surged in 2017, when it started the year at about $900 (£650) and went on to top $20,000 (£14,400) in December.

However, it fell as low as $5,920 (£4,250) on Tuesday, according to Bitstamp Exchange, down 13% on the previous day amid worries about a global regulatory clampdown.

The cryptocurrency was trading at £5,930 on Friday.

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(c) Sky News 2018: Russian nuclear scientists arrested for using supercomputer to mine Bitcoin