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Two Chinese nationals charged over money laundering for N. Korea

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SEOUL: The US Justice Department charged two Chinese nationals with laundering more than US$100 million (S$139 million) in cryptocurrency on behalf of North Korea, in court filings that detail Pyongyang's use of hackers to circumvent sanctions.

According to an indictment filed in federal court in Washington, DC, and unsealed on Monday, the two Chinese allegedly laundered cryptocurrency stolen by North Korean hackers between December 2017 and April last year, helping to hide the stolen currency from police.

"These defendants allegedly laundered over a hundred million dollars worth of stolen cryptocurrency to obscure transactions for the benefit of actors based in North Korea," Assistant Attorney General Brian Benczkowski said in a statement.

In a related civil forfeiture complaint also unsealed on Monday, Justice Department lawyers said they had seized some of the roughly US$250 million that they said North Koreans hackers stole from a virtual currency exchange in 2018.

Those funds were then laundered through hundreds of automated transactions designed to prevent investigators from tracing the funds, the complaint alleged.

At least some of those funds were eventually used to help pay for the infrastructure in North Korea used to launch cyberattacks, according to the documents.


The same North Korean hackers were linked to a November 2019 attack on a South Korean virtual exchange that netted the hackers more than US$48 million in stolen cryptocurrency.

"The hacking of virtual currency exchanges and related money laundering for the benefit of North Korean actors poses a grave threat to the security and integrity of the global financial system," US Attorney Timothy Shea of the District of Columbia, said in the statement. - REUTERS