The U.S. Treasury Department on Friday said it has added Blender, a virtual currency mixer, to the sanction list alleging its use by North Korea for cybercrime and money laundering.
The U.S. has alleged North Korea of stealing cryptocurrencies and laundering them through its virtual currency mixer Blender.io. Several groups in North Korea were found to be hacking into platforms for stealing cryptocurrencies.
More alarmingly, the U.S. alleged that Pyongyang was using the pilfered funds to further its nuclear program. Recently reports suggest the country has resumed testing its nuclear capabilities, furthering tensions in the Korean peninsula.
U.S. Treasury Dept. Brings North Korea’s Blender into SDN List
The U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC) on May 6 reported in an official announcement that it has reportedly added North Korea’s virtual currency mixer Blender to the Specially Designated Nationals And Blocked Persons List (SDN).
The Treasury Department claims North Korea-linked crypto mixing service Blender.io is used by North Korea to hide illicit crypto transactions.
Brian E. Nelson, Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, said:
“Virtual currency mixers that assist illicit transactions pose a threat to U.S. national security interests. We are taking action against illicit financial activity by the DPRK and will not allow state-sponsored thievery and its money-laundering enablers to go unanswered.”
Recently, the Treasury Dept. has added North Korean hacking group Lazarus to the SDN list alleging it for the hacking of the Ronin Bridge which led to the largest crypto theft. The group stole $625 million in cryptocurrencies from the play-to-earn game Axie Infinity.
According to recent reports, the Ronin hacker’s stolen funds accounted for about 15% of deposits on crypto mixer Tornado Cash. Hackers have used various crypto mixers to transfer Ethereum. They converted part of the funds to BTC via wrapped BTC and mixers.
Thus, Tornado Cash could be the next virtual currency mixer to be added to the SDN list.
The U.S. Alleged North Korea of Using Crypto for Nuclear Program
The U.S. Treasury Department had alleged North Korea of illicit activities such as cybercrime for funding its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs. North Korea’s growing cryptocurrency operations have become a concern for the U.S. Some reports had even suggested that North Korea started to mine crypto as early as July 2017.
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