Major darknet crypto laundromat ChipMixer taken down

The joint US-German investigation led to the seizure of more than €44m in illegal bitcoin and the arrest of a Vietnamese operator.

Law enforcement authorities in the US and Germany have taken down a darknet crypto service called ChipMixer that laundered more than $3bn through illicit transactions since 2017.

The cryptocurrency ‘mixer’ service was used by a range of dangerous organisations including ransomware groups, suspected North Korean hackers, users of darknet markets, those who traded in stolen data and even a Russian military intelligence unit that developed malware.

As part of the operation, German authorities took down infrastructure on the ChipMixer platform and seized four servers, 7 TB of data and more than €44m in bitcoin.

The joint US-German investigation, announced yesterday (15 March), was supported by Europol and the national authorities of Belgium, Poland and Switzerland.

Minh Quốc Nguyễn, a resident of Hanoi, Vietnam, was charged in Philadelphia with money laundering and operating an unlicensed money-transmitting business and identity theft connected to the operation of ChipMixer.

According to Europol, the ChipMixer software blocked the blockchain trail of funds, making it attractive to cyber-criminals looking to launder criminal proceeds from criminal activities such as drug and weapons trafficking, ransomware attacks and credit card fraud.

The deposited funds would then be turned into ‘chips’ – which are small tokens of equivalent value – and then mixed together to anonymize the trails and make it hard for authorities to find.

“ChipMixer facilitated the laundering of cryptocurrency, specifically bitcoin, on a vast international scale, abetting nefarious actors and criminals of all kinds in evading detection,” US attorney Jacqueline C Romero said.

“Platforms like ChipMixer, which are designed to conceal the sources and destinations of staggering amounts of criminal proceeds, undermine the public’s confidence in cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology.”

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