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U.S. Treasury Department imposes first ever sanctions on virtual currency mixer

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North Korean leader Kim Jong Un (C) is shown during a public procession in Pyongyang, North Korea, on April 15. The United States on Friday sanctioned a virtual currency mixer allegedly used by North Korea to launder stolen cryptocurrency. Photo by KNCA/EPA-EFE/

May 6 (UPI) — The U.S. Treasury Department on Friday sanctioned Blender.io, a virtual currency mixer used by North Korea. It’s the first sanction of a virtual currency mixer.

Treasury said in a statement Blender.io is used by North Korea to support “its malicious cyber activities and money laundering of virtual currency.”

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“Today, for the first time ever, Treasury is sanctioning a virtual currency mixer,” said Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Brian E. Nelson in a statement.

“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.”

According to the Treasury Department, Blender was used to launder over $20.5 million from a North Korean-sponsored virtual currency heist of nearly $620 million carried out by the Lazurus Group on March 23.

The cryptocurrency was stolen from a blockchain project linked to the online game Axie Infinity.

In April, the Justice Department charged a pair of Europeans with conspiring with a jailed American cryptocurrency expert to help North Korea invade sanctions.

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The Treasury Department statement Friday said Blender has helped transfer more than $500 million worth of Bitcoin since 2017.

Virtual currency mixers combine virtual currency from a variety of transactions before transmitting them.

Blender also was involved in facilitating money laundering for Russian-linked malign ransomware groups Trickbot, Conti, Ryuk, Sodinokibi and Gancrab, according to the Treasury Department.

These sanctions allow the U.S. government to block all Blender.io property and interests in property in the United States or in the possession and control of people in the country.

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