The US Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) has taken decisive action against Bitcoin mixer Sinbad.io, sanction Wednesday for his alleged role in facilitating money laundering activities in North Korea.
Accompanying this sanction, the Sinbad site now displays a seizure notice. Elliptic Research identified two Bitcoin addresses directly associated with Sinbad in the OFAC designation while noting the existence of thousands more potentially linked to the mixer.
Sinbad has been involved in several major cyberthefts, including the high-profile hacks of Harmony’s Horizon Bridge and Axie Infinity Bridge in 2022.
The Treasury investigation links Sinbad to the Lazarus Group, a notorious state-sponsored cyberhacking group in North Korea. Sinbad was not only used in these specific hacks, but also in laundering the proceeds of other major thefts such as Stake.com, CoinEx, FTX, and BadgerDAO.
Sinbad’s ties to Blender.io
Elliptic’s research in early 2023 suggests that Sinbad could be a rebranded version of Blender.io, the first-ever cryptocurrency blender to face OFAC sanctions in May 2022. Blender.io was penalized for laundering millions of dollars on behalf of North Korea’s Lazarus Group. The similarities between Sinbad and Blender are striking, with evidence suggesting that the same individuals or groups could operate both platforms.
This includes matching transaction patterns, service structures, language usage, and even website design, all indicating a close connection between the two mixers.
Rise in Crypto Crime in North Korea
The proliferation of crypto-crime in North Korea is a growing concern, with the United States taking proactive steps to combat these illicit activities. Sinbad’s sanction is part of a broader strategy to disrupt the financial mechanisms used by groups like the Lazarus Group. By targeting these cryptocurrency mixers, the United States aims to curb the laundering of stolen funds, which are often used to finance state-sponsored activities, including cyberwarfare and the development of nuclear programs.