North Korea’s alleged $147.5 million crypto laundering revealed by UN

The UN report also claims that North Korean IT workers operating abroad generate substantial income for the country.

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According to confidential findings by UN sanctions monitors, North Korea utilised the virtual currency platform Tornado Cash to launder $147.5 million in March, following its theft from a cryptocurrency exchange last year. The monitors revealed to a UN Security Council sanctions committee that they had been investigating 97 suspected cyberattacks by North Korea on cryptocurrency companies between 2017 and 2024, totalling approximately $3.6 billion.

As can be seen in these confidential findings, one notable incident involved the theft of $147.5 million from the HTX cryptocurrency exchange late last year, which was then laundered in March. The monitors cited information from crypto analytics firm PeckShield and blockchain research firm Elliptic. In 2024 alone, they investigated 11 cryptocurrency thefts valued at $54.7 million, suggesting possible involvement by North Korean IT workers hired by small crypto-related companies.

North Korea, officially known as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), has faced UN sanctions since 2006, aimed at curbing funding for its ballistic missile and nuclear programs. The US has previously sanctioned Tornado Cash over alleged support for North Korea, with two co-founders charged with facilitating money laundering. Virtual currency ‘mixer’ platforms like Tornado Cash blend cryptocurrencies to obscure their source and ownership.

Additionally, the monitors highlighted ongoing concerns about illicit arms trade between North Korea and Russia, with suspected shipments between North Korea’s Rajin port and Russian ports. There were also reports of North Korean cargo ships offloading coal in Chinese waters, potentially evading sanctions. Both China and Russia declined to comment on the monitors’ findings.