The US Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) has issued its first-ever sanctions against a crypto mixer. The mixing service was used by the Lazarus Group to process illicit proceeds from the $620 million crypto heist of online game Axie Infinity, the Treasury Department said.
Treasury Department Sanctions Crypto Mixer
The US Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced on Friday that it has sanctioned crypto mixer Blender.io (Blender). According to OFAC, this mixing service is used by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) “to support its malicious cyber activities and money laundering of stolen virtual currency”.
The announcement explains that on March 23, Lazarus Group, a DPRK state-sponsored cyber-hacking group, carried out the largest cryptocurrency heist to date, worth nearly $620 million. , from a blockchain project related to the online game Axie Infinity. OFAC added:
Blender was used to process over $20.5 million worth of illicit products.
OFAC sanctioned the Lazarus Group on September 13, 2019 and “identified it as an agency, instrument or entity controlled by the government of the DPRK,” the announcement adds. The designation is based on the group’s “relationship with the U.S.-UN Designated General Reconnaissance Office, the DPRK’s premier intelligence organization.”
Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Brian E. Nelson said:
Today, for the very first time, the Treasury is sanctioning a virtual currency mixer.
OFAC’s investigation also found that Blender facilitated money laundering for Russia-linked malicious ransomware groups, including Trickbot, Conti, Ryuk, Sodinokibi, and Gandcrab.
The US Treasury Department clarified:
Although most virtual currency activity is legal, it can be used for illicit activities, including sanction evasion, through mixers, peer-to-peer exchangers, darknet markets and exchanges. .
“This includes facilitating burglaries, ransomware schemes and other cyber crimes,” Treasury noted.
The announcement clarifies that as a result of the sanctions, all property and interests in Blender.io property, in the United States or in the possession or control of US persons, are blocked and must be reported to OFAC. . In addition, all entities 50% or more owned by one or more Blocked Persons are also blocked, and all transactions by US persons or within the United States involving Designated or Blocked Persons are prohibited.
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