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North Korea Laundered $147.5M in Stolen Crypto Through Tornado Cash: UN

The United Nations sanctions monitors have reported that North Korea was involved in laundering $147.5 million in stolen cryptocurrency obtained from an exchange. According to a Reuters report, the North Korean individuals reportedly used the Tornado Cash crypto platform to launder the stolen crypto in March.

The sanctions monitors, in a confidential document submitted to the U.N. Security Council sanctions committee on Friday, revealed that they have been investigating 97 cyberattacks on crypto firms conducted by North Korean suspects over the past seven years, amounting to approximately $3.6 billion.

Moreover, this year alone, North Korea is suspected of orchestrating 11 cryptocurrency thefts totaling $54.7 million. The document suggests that these thefts “may have been conducted by DPRK IT workers inadvertently hired by small crypto-related companies.”

In a significant cyberattack, $147.5 million worth of cryptocurrency was stolen from the HTX crypto exchange in 2023, and this stolen amount was laundered in March of the current year.

According to a report by the blockchain forensics firm Elliptic, North Korea’s Lazarus group was responsible for the theft of $112.5 million in cryptocurrency from both the crypto exchange HTX and its cross-chain bridge, the HECO Bridge.

Elliptic has flagged that since March 13, 2024, over $100 million from this hack has been laundered through Tornado Cash. Tornado Cash is a crypto mixer operating on the Ethereum blockchain, enabling anonymous transactions by concealing their origin, destination, and counterparties.

The Beleaguered Tornado Cash and Worldwide Responses

On August 8, 2022, the US Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) imposed sanctions on Tornado Cash. The authorities alleged that the platform had enabled hackers to launder approximately USD 7 billion in cryptocurrency since 2019.

Tornado Cash attracted international attention when its developer, Alexey Pertsev, was implicated in a series of money laundering activities. Following the blacklisting of Tornado Cash by the U.S. government, Pertsev was apprehended in the Netherlands in August 2022.

On Tuesday, Pertsev was found guilty of money laundering by a Dutch judge at the s-Hertogenbosch court.

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Cryptocurrency is essentially virtual money that operates in a decentralized manner, not through a bank but directly on multiple independent computers.

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