Ethereum mixer Tornado Cash co-founder arrested by US officials
- Tornado Cash co-founder’s eight Ethereum addresses were sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Department.
- The latest action sees all three founders of ETH Mixer under legal scrutiny for operating the platform.
The United States Department of the Treasury announced the arrest of Roman Storm, co-founder of Tornado Cash – ETH mixer. The arrest made on 23 August was carried out by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation. Notably, the officials have taken action against two of the three co-founders today.
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Along with taking action against Strom, the Treasury Department’s OFAC has imposed sanctions against Roman Semenov. In a press release, the OFAC claimed that Semenov “provided material support to Tornado Cash and to the Lazarus Group.”
Notably, the Lazarus Group – affiliated with the People’s Republic of Korea – has been accused of committing major crypto thefts, including the exploit of the Ronin Bridge.
Money flowing through Tornado Cash funding nuclear programs
The Treasury Department claimed that the cybercriminal group used Tornado Cash “to obfuscate the movement of over $445 million stolen March 2022 attack of Axie Infinity’s Ronin network bridge”. The group also used the Ethereum mixer to launder over $96 million taken from Harmony’s Horizon Bridge.
In addition, nearly $7.8 million from Nomad’s heist also flowed through Tornado Cash. The U.S. officials claimed that this money acts as a revenue source for the People’s Republic “to support its unlawful ballistic missile and nuclear weapons programs.” The Treasury Department had sanctioned the mixer in 2022, alongside Blender.io.
The Deputy Secretary of the Treasury Wally Adeyemo said,
“Even after they knew the Lazarus Group was laundering hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of stolen virtual currency through their mixing service for the benefit of the Kim regime, Tornado Cash’s founders continued to develop and promote the service and did not take meaningful steps to reduce its use for illicit purposes”
Charges against Torndao Cash co-founders
Notably, the U.S. Department of Justice charged Semenov and Storm with conspiracy to launder money, operate an unlicensed money-transmitting business, and violate sanctions. Furthermore, the Treasury Department has sanctioned Semenov to OFAC’s Specially Designated Nationals list [SDN list].
In accordance, eight of Semenov’s ETH addresses have also been sanctioned. And, as per the Treasury Department, Tornado Cash’s co-founder was located in Dubai, the United Arab Emirates, and has Russian nationality. The press release also said,
“Semenov consistently ignored or downplayed the evidence that Tornado Cash was being used to launder stolen virtual currency for the DPRK, continued to participate in the operation and maintenance of the Tornado Cash service, and took no meaningful actions to prevent or mitigate the risk of actors using Tornado Cash to launder proceeds”
Notably, in August 2022, the Dutch Law Enforcement authorities made the first arrest against Tornado Cash founder – Alexey Pertsev. Additionally, the latest action brings three founders of Tornado Cash under legal scrutiny for founding and operating a crypto mixer.