The sanctions, imposed by the United States Department of the Treasury, are the first ever imposed on a digital asset mixing service.
The United States announced on Friday that it was sanctioning North Korean digital currency mixing company Blender.io, which the country allegedly uses to launder stolen virtual currency and support cybercrimes.
The sanctions, imposed by the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, are the first ever imposed on a digital asset mixing service. The new sanctions also underscore the growing use of digital assets to perpetuate illegal acts by state actors and individuals.
Mixing services combine various assets, including potentially illegally obtained funds and legitimately obtained funds, so that illegal actors can conceal the origin of stolen funds.
Blender is accused of helping Lazarus Group, a sanctioned North Korean cyber-hacking group, carry out a $620 million digital currency theft in March, the largest of its kind to date.
Treasury says Blender has helped process over $20.5 million in digital currency. The Lazarus Group was designated in September 2019 as a state-sponsored cybercriminal group.
Four wallets, or virtual currency addresses, linked to the Lazarus Group have also been added to the Treasury’s list of sanctioned entities.
The United States remains committed to pursuing diplomacy with the DPRK and calls on the DPRK to engage in dialogue, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement. At the same time, we will continue to crack down on the DPRK’s illegal cyber activities, as well as violations of UN Security Council resolutions.
The DPRK is the acronym of the country’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of North Korea.
Undersecretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Brian Nelson said virtual currency mixers that facilitate illicit transactions pose a threat to U.S. national security interests.
We are taking action against the DPRK’s illicit financial activities and we will not let the state-sponsored thefts and their money laundering facilitators go unaddressed, he said.
Last month, the United States imposed its first round of sanctions on a cryptocurrency mining company in connection with Russia’s war on war. Digital currency firm Bitriver AG and 10 of its subsidiaries have been included in a sanctions package from the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control.
Lawmakers and administration officials have expressed concerns about the use of cryptocurrency to engage in illicit acts.
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