U.S. Treasury Sanctions North Korean Government’s Crypto Mixer Sinbad
According to a statement released Wednesday, the U.S. Treasury Department has placed sanctions on the government of North Korea’s crypto mixer, Sinbad.
“A key-money laundering tool”
Sinbad serves as “a key money-laundering tool” for the state-sponsored North Korean cyber-hacking collective Lazarus Group. The U.S. Treasury Department states Sinbad has processed millions of dollars worth of virtual currencies from heists conducted by the cyber-hacking group.
Moreover, Lazarus Group is accused of being utilized by cybercriminals “to obfuscate transactions linked to malign activities such as sanctions evasion, drug trafficking, the purchase of child sexual abuse materials, and additional illicit sales on darknet marketplaces.”
“Mixing services that enable criminal actors, such as the Lazarus Group, to launder stolen assets will face serious consequences,” said Deputy Secretary of the Treasury Wally Adeyemo. “The Treasury Department and its U.S. government partners stand ready to deploy all tools at their disposal to prevent virtual currency mixers, like Sinbad, from facilitating illicit activities. While we encourage responsible innovation in the digital asset ecosystem, we will not hesitate to take action against illicit actors.”
The Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) previously sanctioned Lazarus Group alongside two sub-groups backed by the North Korean government, Bluenoroff and Andariel, in 2019.
In May 2022, OFAC placed sanctions on Blender, a North Korean crypto mixer widely considered to be the precursor to Sinbad. Then, in November 2022, OFAC sanctioned Tornado Cash for providing crypto-mixing services to the Lazarus Group. Tornado Cash has since been redesignated by OFAC.
In April 2023, three individuals who provided support to the Lazarus Group and North Korea “through illicit financing and malicious cyber activity” were sanctioned by OFAC.
The U.S. Treasury claims North Korea “launders stolen virtual currency and deploys information technology (I.T.) workers to fraudulently obtain employment to generate revenue in virtual currency to support the regime and its unlawful weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile programs.”
A track record of successful heists
Previously, Sinbad was used to launder a “significant portion” of $620 million stolen during the Axie Infinity heist of March 2022. Sinbad was also responsible for laundering the majority of two different $100 million heists in June 2022 and June 2023, respectively.
“As a result of today’s action, all property and interests in property of the entity described above that are in the United States or in the possession or control of U.S. persons must be blocked and reported to OFAC,” stated a release from the U.S. Treasury on Wednesday.
Individuals who engage in certain dealings with Sinbad may face the potential to be sanctioned themselves going forward.