US Treasury sanctions crypto mixer Sinbad, alleging North Korea ties

The government department has previously imposed sanctions on crypto mixers Blender and Tornado Cash despite many in the space pushing back on actions against software tools.

The United States Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) imposed sanctions on cryptocurrency mixer Sinbad, alleging the platform was responsible for laundering funds for the North Korea-based hacking group Lazarus.

In a Nov. 29 announcement, OFAC said Sinbad had “processed millions of dollars’ worth of virtual currency from Lazarus Group heists,” including the June 2022 hack of Horizon Bridge, the March 2022 hack of Axie Infinity’s Ronin Bridge and the June 2023 hack of Atomic Wallet. The hacks resulted in a combined loss of roughly $820 million at the time.

“Mixing services that enable criminal actors, such as the Lazarus Group, to launder stolen assets will face serious consequences,” said Wally Adeyemo, deputy secretary of the Treasury. “The Treasury Department and its U.S. government partners stand ready to deploy all tools at their disposal to prevent virtual currency mixers, like Sinbad, from facilitating illicit activities.”

Screenshot of Sinbad.io as of Nov. 29

As of Nov. 29, the U.S. Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Netherlands’ Fiscal Information and Investigation Service and Public Prosecution Service and Finland’s National Bureau of Investigation had seized the Sinbad website. Treasury added that sanctions were aimed “not to punish but to bring about a positive change in behavior.”

OFAC has previously sanctioned crypto mixers, including Tornado Cash and Blender, the former of which Treasury alleged also laundered funds for Lazarus. In February, risk management firm Elliptic reported that it was “highly likely” that Sinbad and Blender were one and the same based on on-chain behavior — a rebranding possibly in an attempt to circumvent sanctions.

Related: Blockchain Association files support in suit to lift Tornado Cash sanctions

It’s unclear how investors within the crypto space may respond to the Sinbad sanctions. Following the action against Tornado Cash, a group of individuals backed by crypto exchange Coinbase filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Treasury, claiming the government department exceeded its authority. A judge ruled in favor of Treasury following a motion for summary judgment, but users filed an appeal in November.

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