US sanctions and identifies North Korean Lazarus Group for Axie Infinity hack

The US is sanctioning cryptocurrency mixing platform and North Korea's Lazarus Group for their role in the theft of $625 million from Axie Infinity

US sanctions and identifies North Korean Lazarus Group for Axie Infinity hack

The United States Treasury Department Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced that it will be launching sanctions against the cryptocurrency mixing platform for its role in the laundering of the $625 million stolen during the hack against Axie Infinity‘s Ronin Bridge.

The OFAC found that Blender had not only facilitated the laundering of this money, but that it also laundered money for Russian ransomware groups like Trickbot, Conti, Ryuk, Sodinokibi and Gandcrab. Overall, Blender was responsible for laundering $20.5 million, or less than 10 per cent of the total stolen.

In a statement, Brian E. Nelson, the Under-Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, stated that this was the very first time that the US government meted out sanctions against a currency mixer.

“For the first time ever, Treasury is sanctioning a virtual currency mixer,” Nelson stated. “Virtual currency mixers that assist illicit transactions pose a threat to US national security interests. We are taking action against illicit financial activity by the DPRK and will not allow state-sponsored thievery and its money-laundering enablers to go unanswered.”

Lazarus returns

Along with, the OFAC also stated that the North Korean-sponsored hacker organisation, the Lazarus Group was involved in the Axie heist. While it is difficult to take direct action against, the Treasury is "updating the List of Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons to identify additional virtual currency addresses used by the Lazarus Group to launder illicit proceeds”. So far, this involves four Ethereum addresses.

Axie Infinity remains perhaps the most high-profile success in the blockchain games space, but Sky Mavis continues to face significant headwind as its utility currency, SLP, declined to $0.004 on May 12, as the firm struggles to maintain the game's ecosystem.

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