U.S. Sanctions First BTC Mixer, Blender for Helping Hackers Launder $20.5 Million to North Korea

Blender, a cryptocurrency mixer used by North Korean cyber criminals to launder earnings from the Axie Infinity attack, has been sanctioned by the United States. This sanction is the first to be imposed on a cryptocurrency asset mixer. 

Additionally, four crypto wallet addresses associated with the Lazarus Group have been included in the Treasury Department’s list of blocked entities.

First Crypto Mixer Sanctioned By The U.S.

According to reports, the United States penalized crypto mixing company Blender on Friday for allegedly assisting North Korean fraudsters in washing over $20.5 million looted from the Axie Infinity attack in March.

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Blender is a BTC-based program that cryptocurrency traders use to mask transactions, making them more difficult to track down. Since its launch in 2017, the crypto mixer is said to have allowed the movement of more than $500 million worth of Bitcoin.

Blender Becomes First Crypto Mixer To Receive Sanction

As per a statement released by the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) of the United States Treasury Department, the penalties are the first levied on a cryptocurrency asset mixer.

The Treasury Department convicted blender of assisting the North Korean-backed hacking organization Lazarus in laundering over $20.5 million in Bitcoin taken from the Ronin bridge of Axie infinity on the 23rd of March. The Lazarus Group was able to get away with $620 million.

Also, the Treasury Department said that the mixing facility was used to promote financial fraud for Russian-linked ransomware gangs such as Conti, Trickbot, Ryuk, and other similar entities.

“We are actively working against illegal economic transactions by North Korea and will never let state-sponsored theft and money-laundering facilitators go unpunished,” Brian Nelson, the U.S. Treasury undersecretary for financial intelligence and terrorism, noted.

Additionally, four crypto wallet addresses associated with the Lazarus Gang, which were sanctioned as of 2019, have been included on the Treasury Department’s list of blocked organizations. A spokesperson for the Treasury stated that the agency would continue to examine the misuse of mixing facilities for illegal activities.

The U.S. And Crypto Sanctions

Last month, the United States issued its first round of penalties on the cryptocurrency mining company Bitriver AG including ten of its affiliates, accusing them of assisting the Russian government.

Also, after receiving concerns that it might violate the spectrum of United States embargoes, the ETH-based mixing firm Tornado Cash has stated that it will ban addresses blacklisted by the OFAC.   According to Tornado Cash, “Sustaining anonymity is crucial to safeguarding our freedom; but, it should not be at the expense of violation.”

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