Authorities from Germany and the U.S. have seized up to 44 million euros ($46.3 million) from ChipMixer, a noted cryptocurrency mixer, according to the European Union Agency for Law Enforcement Cooperation (Europol).
The authorities took down the platform's infrastructure, seizing four servers, 7 terabytes of data and 1909.4 bitcoins (BTC) ($47.7 million), Europol said on Wednesday.
The seizure was also supported by Belgium, Poland and Switzerland.
ChipMixer laundered money for ransomware perpetrators, darknet markets, fraudsters and state-sponsored actors, according to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ).
One operator of ChipMixer, Minh Quốc Nguyễn, from Hanoi, Vietnam, was charged on Wednesday in Philadelphia with money laundering, operating an unlicensed money transmitting business and identity theft, the DOJ said.
The platform is believed to have enabled the laundering of 152,000 BTC – around $3.8 billion at current prices – since 2017, a large share of which was connected to ransomware groups, illicit goods trafficking and child sexual exploitation.
According to the DOJ, activities enabled by ChipMixer include over $700 million in bitcoin associated with wallets designated as stolen funds, including those related to heists by North Korean cyber actors, and bitcoin used by the Russian General Staff Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU) to purchase infrastructure for Linux-based malware Drovorub.
Mixing services gained increased prominence in August 2022 when Ethereum-based mixer Tornado Cash was sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Asset Control for facilitating North Korea’s money-laundering operations. Shortly after that, Tornado Cash’s web developer Alexey Pertsev was arrested.
UPDATE (March 15, 14:15 UTC): Adds detail on scale of ChipMixer's previous activity and paragraph on Tornado Cash.
UPDATE (March 15, 16:23 UTC): Adds link to and detail from DOJ statement. Removes Europol from headline.
The leader in news and information on cryptocurrency, digital assets and the future of money, CoinDesk is an award-winning media outlet that strives for the highest journalistic standards and abides by a strict set of editorial policies. In November 2023, CoinDesk was acquired by Bullish group, owner of Bullish, a regulated, institutional digital assets exchange. Bullish group is majority owned by Block.one; both groups have interests in a variety of blockchain and digital asset businesses and significant holdings of digital assets, including bitcoin. CoinDesk operates as an independent subsidiary, and an editorial committee, chaired by a former editor-in-chief of The Wall Street Journal, is being formed to support journalistic integrity.