Tornado Cash: US Treasury sanctions cryptocurrency ‘mixer’ allegedly used by North Korea for money laundering

According to a senior financial official, Tornado Cash has allegedly laundered more than $7 billion in virtual currency since its launch in 2019, including $455 million from the Lazarus Group, a North Korean state-backed hacking group. It was also used as recently as last week to launder money from a “raj” by Nomad, a US cryptocurrency firm, the official said.

Monday’s sanctions will prohibit US persons, and those subject to US jurisdiction, from using the virtual currency mixer.

A virtual currency mixer receives a series of transactions and mixes them together before sending them to their final destination to make it more difficult to trace where the money came from or where it is going.

Tornado Cash made some efforts to comply with its regulatory obligations, including by adding a screening tool to prevent money from going to previously sanctioned cryptocurrency wallets, the senior finance official said. But despite that, police analysis of public cryptocurrency transactions showed hackers like the Lazarus Group were still able to send money to Tornado Cash for laundering, the official said.

As part of Monday’s crackdown, 44 cryptocurrency wallets linked to Tornado Cash were sanctioned by the US government. The Treasury official said Tornado Cash has previously been identified as an entity of concern, but declined to say how long and where the organization might be based or which people run it.

“Despite public assurances to the contrary, Tornado Cash has repeatedly failed to impose effective controls designed to stop it from laundering funds for malicious cyber actors on a regular basis and without fundamental measures to manage the risks,” Treasury Secretary of State for Terrorism and financial intelligence. Brian Nelson said in a statement. “Treasury will continue to aggressively pursue actions against mixers who launder virtual currency for criminals and those who assist them.”

According to the Treasury Secretary, Tornado Cash is one of the largest virtual currency mixers identified by the US government. It is only the second time the ministry has sanctioned such a unit.

In May, the Treasury Department sanctioned another virtual currency mixer,, which it said was being used by North Korea “to support its malicious cyber activities and the laundering of stolen virtual currency.”

The official said they hoped Monday’s sanctions would send a message to the private sector and partner nations to encourage them to develop regulations around virtual currency.

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