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A First For Crypto, U.S. Treasury Sanctions Mixer Blender IO

Flagged as a “significant threat” to the United States national security, Bitcoin mixer Blender.io has become the first crypto entity to be sanctioned by the Treasury Department. According to a press release, the platform has “failed” to implement Anti-Money Laundering (AML) and Counter-Terrorism policies.

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As a result, the Treasury claims, the mixer has been leveraged by state-sponsored bad actors to launder funds from illegal activities. The government agency claims North Korea-backed Lazarus Group used Blender.io as part of an attack on Axie Infinity’s Ronin Bridge.

As reported by Bitconist, this attack was one of the largest in the crypto industry. Attackers managed to compromise the nodes that supported the Bridge and exploit them to extract over $600 million.

$20.5 million of the stolen funds were sent to Blender.io, per the release. The U.S. Treasury claims North Korea has been using cybercrimes to avoid “robust” sanctions imposed by the United Nations and other countries. The funds are allegedly used to fund the country’s weapons of mass destruction program.

Brian Nelson, Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, said the following on the sanctions to the mixer:

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.

The Bitcoin mixer has been “designated pursuant” to Executive Order 13694. Thus, the Treasury claims it has “assisted, sponsored” or supported in any form an entity that can pose a “threat” to the U.S. national security, foreign policy, or its financial stability.

In addition, the Treasury reminds crypto entities of their alleged responsibility to prevent any sanctioned individual, company, or country from circumventing them and “undermining U.S. foreign policy and national security interest”.

U.S. Treasury After More Crypto Entities Linked To Malicious Actors

The U.S. Treasury revealed that it is working to identify other potential crypto wallet addresses linked to the Axie Infinity hacked and the Lazarus Group. This organization was sanctioned back on September 13, 2019, and classified as an entity under the control of North Korea.

The government agency has blocked Blender.io from any property or interest in the United States. In addition, the government agency said:

All transactions by U.S. persons or within (or transiting) the United States that involve any property or interests in property of designated or otherwise blocked persons are prohibited unless authorized by a general or specific license issued by OFAC, or exempt.

Blender, the Treasury acknowledged, is a service used by people looking to increase their on-chain privacy when transacting in Bitcoin. However, the agency claims it is “commonly used by illicit actors”.

The Treasury claims that Blender.io has been used to launder money from other state-backed bad actors, such as Trickbot, Conti, Ryuk, Sodinokibi, Gandcrab, and others.

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At the time of writing, Bitcoin (BTC) trades at $36,000 with a 3% loss in the last 24-hours.

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BTC moving sideways on the 4-hour chart. Source: BTCUSD Tradingview

Source: bitcoinist.com