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10:30 AM

Chinese Nationals Charged with Laundering $100M in Cryptocurrency

The two defendants allegedly laundered $100 million for the benefit of North Korean threat actors who stole the funds in 2018.

Chinese nationals Tian Yinyin and Li Jiadong have been charged with laundering more than $100 million in cryptocurrency, which was reportedly stolen by North Korean attackers in 2018.

The pleadings allege that in 2018, North Korean threat actors broke into a virtual currency exchange and stole nearly $250 million in cryptocurrency, which was laundered via hundreds of automated cryptocurrency transactions so law enforcement couldn't trace it. Co-conspirators bypassed exchanges' know-your-customer rules with doctored photos and false identification.

Between December 2017 and April 2019, Yinyin and Jiadong allegedly laundered over $100 million in virtual currency, most of which was from cryptocurrency hacks. They worked through independent and linked accounts and charged a fee for currency transmission services. Both did business in the US but never registered with the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network.

The North Korean co-conspirators are also linked to the November 2019 theft of $48.5 million in virtual currency from a South Korean exchange. As with their previous attack, they allegedly laundered stolen funds through automated transactions and submitted fake photos and IDs.

A civil forfeiture complaint also unsealed today names 113 cryptocurrency accounts and addresses that the defendants and their unnamed accomplices used to launder funds. A portion of the funds have already been seized; the complaint seeks to recover the rest, the US Department of Justice reports.

The two-count indictment charges Yinyin and Jiadong with money-laundering conspiracy and operating an unlicensed money transmitting business. On March 2, the US Department of Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control imposed sanctions on the defendants and several cryptocurrency addresses for their support for malicious activity linked to North Korean actors.

Read the full DoJ release here.    

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