Treasury Department of the United States Sanctions a Bitcoin Mixer


The U.S. Treasury Department has put sanctions on a dark web service called Blender.io, which mixes bitcoins. This is the first time the U.S. government has taken this step against a bitcoin mixer.

The Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) says Blender.io processed around $20.5 million in stolen bitcoins. They believe a hacking group called Lazarus Group, linked to North Korea, used Blender.io to move more than $20 million in bitcoins stolen from an online game called Axie Infinity.

Brian E. Nelson, from the Treasury Department, mentioned that this action is the first of its kind and that virtual currency mixers like Blender.io help criminals and threaten U.S. security.

The sanctions mean Blender.io, along with its web addresses, Telegram bots, and email accounts, are now restricted. The Treasury Department has also identified four Ethereum addresses tied to Lazarus Group, adding them to the sanctions list.

According to Cointelegraph:

“While most virtual currency activity is licit, it can be used for illicit activity, including sanctions evasion, through mixers, peer-to-peer exchangers, darknet markets, and exchanges. This includes the facilitation of heists, ransomware schemes, and other cybercrimes. Treasury continues to use its authorities against malicious cyber actors in concert with other U.S. departments and agencies, as well as our foreign partners, to disrupt financial nodes tied to illicit payments and cyber-attacks. Those in the virtual currency industry play a critical role in implementing appropriate Anti-Money Laundering/Countering the Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) and sanctions controls to prevent sanctioned persons and other illicit actors from exploiting virtual currency to undermine U.S foreign policy and national security interests.”

“The virtual currency mixers that assist criminals are a threat to U.S. national security interests. Treasury will continue to investigate the use of mixers for illicit purposes and consider the range of authorities Treasury has to respond to illicit financing risks in the virtual currency ecosystem. For example, in 2020, Treasury’s Financial Crime Enforcement Network (FinCEN) assessed a $60 million civil money penalty against the owner and operator of a virtual currency mixer for violations of the Bank Secrecy Act (BSA) and its implementing regulations. Criminals have increased use of anonymity-enhancing technologies, including mixers, to help hide the movement or origin of funds. Additional information on illicit financing risks associated with mixers and other anonymity-enhancing technologies in the virtual asset ecosystem can be found in the 2022 National Money Laundering Risk Assessment.”

The recent U.S. Treasury Department sanctions on Blender.io highlight the government’s efforts to combat illicit activities involving cryptocurrencies on the dark web. This action comes amid ongoing concerns about the misuse of virtual currency mixers by criminal groups like Lazarus Group, which reportedly moved stolen bitcoins worth millions through Blender.io. Such crackdowns aim to disrupt illegal financial activities tied to entities like North Korea’s Lazarus Group, which allegedly stole funds from online games like Axie Infinity. These developments underscore the risks associated with dark web transactions and emphasize the importance of monitoring and regulating cryptocurrency markets, especially those operating on the Tor network like White House Market or Invictus Market.

In the realm of dark web markets, the landscape remains dynamic, with shifts in popular platforms and ongoing concerns about market integrity. Users seeking trusted deep web links in 2023 must navigate a complex environment, considering the rise and fall of prominent marketplaces like Alphabay, which faced closure due to illegal activities. The concept of market exit scams, where platforms suddenly disappear with users’ funds, remains a significant risk. Amidst these challenges, users are advised to exercise caution and verify legitimacy when engaging with darknet markets and cryptocurrency transactions to mitigate the risk of falling victim to scams or illegal activities.

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