North Korea-linked group used Tornado Cash to launder $147 million in crypto: Reuters

Quick Take

  • North Korean hackers laundered $147.5 million in cryptocurrencies through Tornado Cash in March, according to a Reuters report. 
  • The funds were stolen from the HTX cryptocurrency exchange earlier this year, U.N. sanctions monitors said in a document shared with the publication. 

North Korea laundered nearly $150 million in stolen cryptocurrencies with Tornado Cash in March, Reuters reported, citing United Nations sanctions monitors. 

North Korean cybercriminals deposited the ill-gotten funds, worth $147.5 million, onto the privacy-preserving in a bid to throw law enforcement off its tracks, the monitors said Friday in a note to the U.S. Security Council sanctions committee. The illicit funds, worth $147.5 million, were stolen from the HTX crypto exchange last year, according to the document seen by Reuters. 

Tornado Cash, a coin mixer, obfuscates the movement of cryptocurrencies by severing the on-chain link between the source of a digital asset transaction and the wallet address of its recipient, making it difficult for law enforcement to trace the movement of illicit funds. 

The U.N. sanctions monitors detected the money laundering incident last week amid a broader investigation into North Korea-linked cyber thefts, Reuters reported. The sanctions detectives are investigating 97 cyberattacks on crypto exchanges with suspected ties to the sanctioned regime. The exploits, which drained $3.6 billion from the platforms, occurred between 2017 and 2024. 

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The U.N. has imposed a rash of sanctions, including restrictions on the trade of military supplies, luxury goods, and other products, against North Korea for nearly 20 years. However, the international organization has not imposed new sanctions on the nation since 2017, as members of the international community voice concerns over the effects of trade restrictions on civilians in heavily sanctioned nations, according to a U.N. Security Council statement

Tornado Cash has come under intense scrutiny for facilitating bad actors’ laundering of their criminal proceeds. The mixer’s co-founder, Alexey Pertsev, received a 64-month prison sentence in the Netherlands earlier this week after a trio of Dutch judges convicted the 31-year-old developer of money laundering. 

 


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About Author

Elizabeth Napolitano is a data reporter covering business and technology news, with a focus on cryptocurrencies. Prior to joining The Block, Elizabeth reported on BigTech, AI, crypto and videogames for CBS Moneywatch. As a CoinDesk reporter, she covered DeFi, NFTs and U.S. courts. She holds an MA in Journalism from CUNY. Follow her on X: @LizKNapolitano

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