The United States is stepping up its efforts to crack down on shady cryptocurrency mixers. The Treasury Department has imposed sanctions on Tornado Cash, a blender that allegedly helped launder more than $7 billion in stolen crypto funds since its inception in 2019. Like a previous sanctions target, Blender, Tornado Cash is accused of having “indiscriminately” helped thieves by hiding. details of the transaction while failing to institute meaningful anti-money laundering safeguards. The North Korean state-sponsored Lazarus Group hackers are believed to have funneled $455 million through the mixer.
The sanctions block transactions with or for the benefit of persons and entities connected to Tornado Cash, whether located in the United States or controlled by Americans. Anyone who detects prohibited activity is required to notify the Treasury Offices of Foreign Assets Control.
Tornado Cash runs on the Ethereum blockchain. Officials said the mixer played a role in other large-scale thefts, including June’s Harmony Bridge robbery (where it laundered $96 million) and this month’s Nomad attack (involving “at least” $7.8 million).
The government has taken legal action against crypto mixers for years. Federal law enforcement charged an Ohio man in 2020 with running a darknet mixer that helped criminals launder $300 million. However, the Treasury only started sanctioning blenders when it shut down Blender in May. The United States now believes that pro-criminal mixers pose a threat to national security and hopes that such efforts will curb both terrorism and attempts to dodge treaty sanctions.