U.S. Sanctions Crypto Mixer Blender.io for Aiding Axie Infinity’s Hackers

The Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) of the United States Department of the Treasury has added cryptocurrency mixing platform Blender.io to its sanction list, according to a Friday statement.

U.S. Treasury Dept. Sancations Crypto Mixer

Crypto mixing services enable individuals to hide their transactions. Such platforms mix one user’s coins with the coins of others, thereby eliminating traces of funds to a particular wallet address. Most cyber criminals use them as a tool to obfuscate transactions. 

This is the first time a crypto mixer has been sanctioned by the United States. In an official statement, the Treasury Department noted that Blender.io aided North Korea hacking group Lazarus in laundering $20.5 million out of the $620 million stolen from Axie Infinity in March.

The department discovered the newly sanctioned addresses were also linked to Russian crime groups including Trickbot, Conti, Ryuk, Sodinokibi, and Gandcrab.

OFAC said Blender.io has been used to launder over $500 million worth of Bitcoin since its launch in 2017.

“Virtual currency mixers that assist illicit transactions pose a threat to U.S. 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,” Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Brian E. Nelson said.

The Treasury Department also added four wallet addresses linked to the Lazarus group to its sanctioned list, while noting that it is “committed to tracing illicit virtual currency and blocking associated wallets and addresses wherever found.”

Criminals Continue to Exploit Crypto

As cryptocurrency continues to surge and edge closer to mainstream adoption, criminals continue to leverage the asset class because of its privacy nature. These nefarious players use crypto assets as a means to conduct all kinds of illicit activities including money laundering and terrorist financing.

In March, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) arrested and charged two men for alleged involvement in $1.1 million in wire fraud and money laundering linked to non-fungible tokens (NFTs)

Last month, Hong Kong Authorities arrested a suspected Triad Member in an alleged crypto scam.