Mr. Stefansson wouldn’t have needed a running start to jump it. The night he bolted, he started browsing for international flights on his cellphone at about 11, he said in the interview. After booking one under an assumed name, he opened his window and left. He claims that he walked a mile to Route 1, the road that rings the island, and hitchhiked 59 miles to Keflavik, a town near the airport. (The police maintain that an accomplice drove him.) From there, he called a cab.
Once in Stockholm, he traveled via train, taxi and ferry to Germany through Denmark. There he met “individuals” who drove him to Amsterdam. He enjoyed just three hours of freedom in the Dutch capital. Unbeknown to him, the local authorities had been quickly tipped off by two pedestrians with a cellphone photograph of a person they believed was the much-publicized wanted man. Soon after, an officer approached Mr. Stefansson and demanded identification.
“I was just walking when it happened,” he said.
The police in Iceland have said little about any evidence they have linking Mr. Stefansson to the computer theft. It was actually three separate thefts over the course of a few weeks, starting Dec. 5. One occurred at a compound near the airport, home to a handful of cryptocurrency mining warehouses leased to different companies. The warehouses look like hangars, though instead of containing jets these are densely packed with computers, numbered and neatly arranged on shelves. Giant fans hum noisily overhead.
“If you spent a day here, you would probably go deaf,” shouted Mia Molnar of Genesis Mining, which is based in Hong Kong and mines coins for Ethereum, a Bitcoin rival.
She was giving a tour of Genesis’ warehouse and later, in a far quieter room, offered her best shot at explaining what all those computers are doing. The simplified version: They are engaged in a nonstop, worldwide race to process new transactions using cryptocurrencies, digital tokens that can be traded electronically. The task requires ever more powerful equipment. Success is rewarded, digitally and automatically, with a small batch of new coins.