By Byun Duk-kun
WASHINGTON, May 6 (Yonhap) -- The United States on Friday imposed sanctions on virtual currency mixer Blender for helping North Korea to launder stolen virtual currency.
It marks the first time the U.S. has imposed sanctions on a virtual currency mixer, according to the treasury department.
"Today, the U.S. Department of the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) sanctioned virtual currency mixer Blender.io (Blender), which is used by the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) to support its malicious cyber activities and money-laundering of stolen virtual currency," the department said in a press release, referring to North Korea by its official name.
The department said North Korea's "state-sponsored hacking group," known as Lazarus, stole nearly US$620 million in cyber currency from the online game Axie Infinity on March 23.
"Blender was used in processing over $20.5 million of the illicit proceeds," it added.
The department also updated its list of "specially designated nations and blocked persons" to add virtual currency addresses used by the Lazarus Group.
"We are taking action against illicit financial activity by the DPRK and will not allow state-sponsored thievery and its money-laundering enablers to go unanswered," Brian Nelson, under secretary of treasury for terrorism and financial intelligence, was quoted as saying.
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