The United States Justice Department announced on March 15 that it was pressing charges against a resident of Hanoi, Vietnam, in connection to the operation of the ChipMixer. The announcement came shortly after it became known that a Europol action led by German law enforcement had closed down the Vietnam-based crypto mixer.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania is charging Minh Quốc Nguyễn with money laundering, operating an unlicensed money-transmitting business and identity theft, it said. Those crimes carry a maximum penalty of 40 years in prison.
Nguyễn was identified as the creator and operator of the online infrastructure used by ChipMixer. Nguyễn allegedly promoted ChipMixer online and advised customers on how to avoid Know You Customer (KYC) and Anti-Money Laundering (AML) measures. In addition, ChipMixer serviced American customers without registering with the U.S. Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network or collecting KYC/AML data.
Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco said:
“Cybercrime seeks to exploit boundaries, but the Department of Justice’s network of alliances transcends borders and enables disruption of the criminal activity that jeopardizes our global cybersecurity.”
The Justice Department linked ChipMixer to a number of illegal activities between August 2017 and March 2023, including facilitating the laundering of $17 million in Bitcoin (BTC) connected to ransomware attacks. It also helped launder over $700 million in Bitcoin connected to wallets flagged as containing stolen funds, including funds from the Axie Infinity Ronin Bridge and Harmony Horizon Bridge exploits, and over $200 million in Bitcoin associated with the darknet, as well as the Bitcoin used by the Russian General Staff Main Intelligence Directorate to buy malware.
3/ For those unfamiliar with CM here’s what it looks like when using the mixer. pic.twitter.com/hen8dRJI0F
— ZachXBT (@zachxbt) November 29, 2022
Elliptic said it had analyzed the mixer’s blockchain transactions and found, “ChipMixer has been used to launder over $844 million in Bitcoin that can be linked directly to illicit activity — including at least $666 million from thefts.”
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ChipMixer was already known to international law enforcement. Its processing of stolen funds was noticed at least as early as 2019.