1 Arrested As Feds Indict Tornado Cash Founders For Allege…[ad_1]
The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) indicted two founders of the Russian cryptocurrency mixer Tornado Cash for supposedly operating a crypto scheme that is said to have helped North Korea launder billions of dollars.
Authorities charged Roman Storm and Roman Semenov with federal money laundering and sanctions violations. The FBI arrested Storm on Wednesday, while Semenov is still at large.
The DOJ deemed both Tornado Cash founders responsible for laundering over $1 billion in "criminal proceeds" through their mixing tool, including "hundreds of millions" for the notorious North Korean hacking group Lazarus.
"As alleged, Tornado Cash was an infamous cryptocurrency mixer that laundered more than $1 billion in criminal proceeds and violated U.S. sanctions. Roman Storm and Roman Semenov allegedly operated Tornado Cash and knowingly facilitated this money laundering. While publicly claiming to offer a technically sophisticated privacy service, Storm and Semenov in fact knew that they were helping hackers and fraudsters conceal the fruits of their crimes. Today's indictment is a reminder that money laundering through cryptocurrency transactions violates the law, and those who engage in such laundering will face prosecution," U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said.
Tornado Cash, which obscures the origin of funds transacted on its platform, was sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC) last year following allegations that the Lazarus Group had used the crypto mixing tool to launder funds from its crypto hacks.
On Wednesday, OFAC included Semenov on its sanctioned list, along with eight Ethereum addresses the agency believed he controlled.
"Today's announcement should remind criminal organizations everywhere in the world that they are neither untraceable nor anonymous. You can't hide from us behind a keyboard — whether you're a hacker or facilitator," FBI Director Christopher A. Wray said.
"Those charged today engaged in a conspiracy to launder money for cybercriminals, including for a North Korean cybercrime organization seeking to evade sanctions. As we have with this operation, the FBI is going to keep dismantling the infrastructure used by cyber criminals to commit and profit from their crimes and holding anyone who assists those criminals accountable," he added.
Storm, who was arrested in Washington state Wednesday, was not on the sanctioned list, while Semenov is still at large. Tornado Cash's third co-founder, unnamed in the newly unsealed indictment, was arrested on money laundering charges in the Netherlands last year, according to the Treasury Department.
OFAC publishes the list of targeted companies or individuals that have been a part of or are currently involved in the companies that are sanctioned by the U.S. to ensure that their assets are blocked and the public, especially "U.S. persons," are restricted from doing business with them.
In April, the crypto policy trade group Blockchain Association heavily criticized the Treasury Department, calling its move to sanction the crypto mixer tool Tornado Cash "unprecedented and unlawful."
The Washington-based trade group filed an amicus brief supporting crypto think tank Coin Center's lawsuit against the Treasury Department in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida on June 3, noting that the sanctions the government agency came up with triggered "serious regulatory and constitutional questions."
"It's critical to recognize that Tornado Cash is simply a tool – punishing the tool itself simply because it can be used by anyone, including bad actors, runs contrary to the values this country was founded upon," Blockchain Association CEO Kristin Smith said in a statement, adding that the "Blockchain Association stands with Coin Center, advocating for the responsible and lawful use of blockchain technology. Regulatory actions should only be targeted at bad actors who abuse this tool for illegal purposes."
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