The U.S. Treasury Department on Friday imposed sanctions on a virtual currency mixer it said North Korea used to help launder stolen virtual currency as part of a program of malicious cyber activities in the country.
Blacklisting Blender.io is the first time the Treasury Department has put a cryptocurrency mixer on its sanctions list.
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The Treasury Office for the Control of Foreign Assets, which enforces and enforces U.S. sanctions, said Blender.io is working on the bitcoin blockchain and helping to facilitate illegal transactions by concealing their origin, destination and other parties. Blender.io has helped transfer bitcoin worth more than $ 500 million since its creation in 2017, according to the Treasury.
Entities such as Blender.io mix different transactions and are usually used by suspicious groups, according to the Ministry of Finance, which also states that Blender.io has helped launder money for several groups of ransomware associated with Russia.
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“Virtual currency mixers aiding illegal transactions pose a threat to US national security interests,” said Brian Nelson, undersecretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence.
Blender.io was not available for comment.
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Faced with U.S. and United Nations sanctions, North Korea is reportedly resorting to illegal cyber activities to fund its ballistic missile and weapons of mass destruction programs, the finance ministry said. North Korea’s actions include robberies from cryptocurrency exchanges and financial institutions, according to the finance ministry.
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The Treasury said Blender.io was involved in laundering more than $ 20.5 million in revenue from the Lazarus Group’s cryptocurrency robbery of nearly $ 620 million from a blockchain project related to the Axie Infinity online game.
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The theft in March by the Lazarus Group, which the U.S. sanctioned in 2019 alleging it was an agency of the North Korean government, was the biggest virtual currency robbery to date, according to the Treasury Department.
Write to Mengqi Sun on [email protected]