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North Korea Laundered $147.5 Million in Crypto Stolen from HTX

1 min
Updated by Ali M.
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In Brief

  • North Korea used Tornado Cash to launder $147.5 million, breaching international finance laws.
  • The US imposed sanctions on Tornado Cash for enabling significant financial crimes.
  • North Korea's illicit crypto activities fund prohibited nuclear and missile programs.
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The United Nations (UN) recently uncovered a breach of international finance laws regarding North Korea. 

North Korea allegedly washed $147.5 million in stolen cryptocurrency through Tornado Cash in March.

North Korea’s Crypto Laundering Exposed

The UN has investigated 97 cyberattacks on cryptocurrency firms. These attacks, carried out by North Korea over the past seven years, total approximately $3.6 billion in value.

One of the major incidents included the theft of $147.5 million worth of cryptocurrency from the HTX crypto exchange in 2023.

Elliptic revealed that North Korea’s Lazarus group stole $112.5 million in cryptocurrency from the platform and its cross-chain bridge, HECO. Since March 13, 2024, perpetrators have laundered over $100 million from the hack through Tornado Cash to conceal the transaction path.

Read more: Crypto Project Security: A Guide to Early Threat Detection

North Korea’s ongoing use of cryptocurrency mixers highlights a major flaw in international sanctions enforcement. The nation takes advantage of the anonymity provided by these platforms to fund its banned nuclear and missile programs.

On August 8, 2022, the US Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) imposed sanctions on Tornado Cash. They have accused the platform of helping hackers launder $7 billion in cryptocurrency since 2019.

The penalization of Tornado Cash sparked worldwide controversy when its developer, Alexey Pertsev, was implicated in a money laundering scheme. Dutch authorities arrested Pertsev in the Netherlands in August 2022, around the same time the US government blacklisted Tornado Cash.

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Shota Oba
After interning at a domestic blockchain media company while enrolled at a university in international relations, he worked as an intern trainee at two foreign crypto asset exchanges. Currently, as a journalist, he focuses on the Japanese crypto asset market, both technical and fundamental analysis. He has been trading crypto assets since 2021 and is interested in economic and social affairs.