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US DOJ Charges North Korean Bank Official Charged in 2 Crypto Laundering Conspiracies

On April 24, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) unveiled accusations against a North Korean bank official for two offenses using cryptocurrencies. According to the DOJ, Sim Hyon Sop, a North Korean Foreign Trade Bank representative, participated in two schemes to launder money using cryptocurrencies.

Sim is accused of plotting with three other over-the-counter (OTC) cryptocurrency traders to use stolen exchange cash to buy goods for North Korea. Wu Huihu and Cheng Hung Man, two foreign nationals, were identified as co-conspirators. Wu is charged separately, and the U.S. Treasury has named all three people. Another person is only recognized by the alias “Jammy Chen.”

Sim is also accused of collaborating with North Korean IT professionals to launder money obtained from their unlawful operations at American blockchain companies. The employees demanded payment in cryptocurrencies like Tether (USDT) and USD Coin (USDC), which they used to conceal their identities. North Korea received such monies.

According to the DOJ, conducting an illegal money-transfer firm carries a five-year jail sentence, and conspiring to launder financial instruments has a maximum sentence of 20 years. The first accusation appears true of Sim, whereas the second accusation is true of Wu.

Sim’s attempts to circumvent American sanctions on North Korea were called “innovative attempts” by DOJ official Kenneth A. Polite. To stop the nation from creating WMDs, sanctions were put in place.

The DOJ also confirmed a number of other criminal cryptocurrency-related North Korean actions, particularly those carried out by the state-sponsored Lazarus hacker outfit. In 2022, the Lazarus Group was behind two notorious blockchain assaults (on the Horizon Bridge and the Ronin Bridge). Coin mixers are also frequently used.

While the DOJ did not specifically allege that Sim and his accomplices belonged to Lazarus or associated organizations, Treasury documents indicate Wu handled Lazarus funds.


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