The joint US-German investigation led to the seizure of more than €44m in illegal bitcoin and the arrest of a Vietnamese operator.
Law enforcement authorities in the US and Germany have taken down a darknet crypto service called ChipMixer that laundered more than $3bn through illicit transactions since 2017.
The cryptocurrency ‘mixer’ service was used by a range of dangerous organisations including ransomware groups, suspected North Korean hackers, users of darknet markets, those who traded in stolen data and even a Russian military intelligence unit that developed malware.
As part of the operation, German authorities took down infrastructure on the ChipMixer platform and seized four servers, 7 TB of data and more than €44m in bitcoin.
The joint US-German investigation, announced yesterday (15 March), was supported by Europol and the national authorities of Belgium, Poland and Switzerland.
Minh Quốc Nguyễn, a resident of Hanoi, Vietnam, was charged in Philadelphia with money laundering and operating an unlicensed money-transmitting business and identity theft connected to the operation of ChipMixer.
According to Europol, the ChipMixer software blocked the blockchain trail of funds, making it attractive to cybercriminals looking to launder criminal proceeds from criminal activities such as drug and weapons trafficking, ransomware attacks and credit card fraud.
The deposited funds would then be turned into ‘chips’ – which are small tokens of equivalent value – and then mixed together to anonymise the trails and make it hard for authorities to find.
“ChipMixer facilitated the laundering of cryptocurrency, specifically bitcoin, on a vast international scale, abetting nefarious actors and criminals of all kinds in evading detection,” US attorney Jacqueline C Romero said.
“Platforms like ChipMixer, which are designed to conceal the sources and destinations of staggering amounts of criminal proceeds, undermine the public’s confidence in cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology.”
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