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North Korea Set Up a Blockchain Firm to Launder Crypto to Cash: UN

North Korea set up a Hong Kong blockchain firm in a bid to to launder stolen cryptocurrency and avoid sanctions, the UN has reportedly said.

Nov 6, 2019 at 10:12 a.m. UTC
Updated Sep 13, 2021 at 11:40 a.m. UTC

North Korea has been using a Hong Kong-based blockchain company to launder money, according to a quarterly report from the UN Security Council's Sanctions Committee on North Korea.

As reported by South Korean newspaper Chosun, North Korea employed a shipping and logistics firm called Marine China, which runs on a blockchain platform, to avoid international sanctions by laundering stolen cryptocurrency.

The report claims a man named Julian Kim, under the alias Tony Walker, was the sole owner and investor in the firm, and had attempted to withdraw money from banks in Singapore on several occasions. As per Chosun, the UN claims the laundering scheme, which also involved another undisclosed individual linked to the firm, circulated the stolen crypto through upwards of 5,000 transactions in multiple countries to obfuscate its source.

The report further states that North Korea has developed precision “spear-phishing” attacks. Over the past three years, a previous UN report said, 17 countries have been targeted by its hacking experts resulting in over $2 billion in losses – a figure that regime has denied.

Chosun adds that the report also notes the development of malicious code used to move stolen bitcoin to a server located at Pyongyang's Kim Il-sung University.

Severe sanctions against North Korea from the UN and other international bodies have pushed the country's regime towards cryptocurrencies over time. This September, Vice reported the country is developing its own cryptocurrency with properties similar to bitcoin to sidestep international sanctions.

North Korea image via Shutterstock

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