Helping send money to North Korea
The U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) has imposed sanctions on three individuals accused of assisting North Korea in raising funds by remittances of illicitly obtained crypto assets (virtual currencies).
Bryan Nelson, Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, said in a statement:
North Korea uses illicit networks to access the international financial system and generate revenue in cryptocurrencies, supporting its illegal weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile programs. This threatens international security.
act of three
The sanctioned Wu Huihui is a China-based OTC (over-the-counter) cryptocurrency trader. According to OFAC, North Korea worked with the hacking group Lazarus to broker the exchange of stolen cryptocurrencies for fiat currency.
The US Treasury Department OFAC has identified multiple Bitcoin (BTC) addresses associated with Wu.
Also, Cheng Hung Man is a Hong Kong-based OTC trader who worked with Wu for North Korea. He received the virtual currency and sent it to the front company in return. It means that the front company was used to get North Korea-related organizations to circumvent the financial system’s countermeasures against illegal funds.
A third, Sim Hyon Sop, is said to have worked for a sanctioned North Korean bank and transferred millions of dollars for North Korea.
OFAC has identified the Ethereum (ETH) held by Sim, the arbitrum address, and the address on the Binance Chain.
The sanctions will freeze the assets of these three men in the United States. All property owned or controlled by Americans will be frozen and reported to OFAC. Businesses that each of the three directly or indirectly owns more than 50% will also be frozen.
What is the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC)?
The Office of Foreign Assets Control in English, abbreviated as OFAC. An agency of the U.S. Treasury Department. Responsible for implementing economic sanctions based on US foreign and security policy.
Hacking more than 200 billion yen in a year?
According to OFAC, North Korea has been stealing and defrauding cryptocurrencies since at least late 2017 to generate income to deploy its weapons of mass destruction program. In 2022 alone, hackers reportedly stole an estimated ¥230 billion ($1.7 billion) worth of cryptocurrencies.
In March 2022, more than 80 billion yen was stolen from the blockchain dedicated to the popular NFT game Axie Infinity. In April of the same year, the U.S. Treasury Department added the address of the hacker group “Lazarus” to its sanctions list for its involvement in the hack.
North Korea uses its network of over-the-counter (OTC) traders to convert stolen cryptocurrencies into fiat currency.
connection: Virtual currency stolen from Axie Infinity’s “Ronin bridge”, equivalent to 4.3 billion yen will be recovered
Utilized by IT workers
According to OFAC, in addition to theft, North Korea is also said to be using its workforce of IT engineers to raise funds.
IT sector workers working for North Korea usually apply for jobs at foreign companies under false identities. If hired, demand payment in virtual currency for the work done at the company. It looks like he is sending most of his salary to North Korea.
Sim, which has been sanctioned this time, also cooperated with North Korean workers in remittances received from US companies.