In a recent revelation, the National Authority for Investigation and Prosecution of Economic and Environmental Crime of Norway announced the seizure of approximately $5.84 million in cryptocurrency, marking the largest crypto seizure in Norway’s history.
The investigating agency revealed that the confiscation was made in connection with an investigation into the digital attack against Sky Mavis, a technology company that creates decentralized applications and services, and the popular blockchain game Axie Infinity, which saw roughly $620 million in cryptocurrency stolen in March 2022.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the domestic intelligence and security service of the United States and its principal federal law enforcement agency, has identified the North Korean hacker group Lazarus as being behind the attack. They have also accused the group of subsequent money laundering operations.
Sources suggest that the hackers used highly sophisticated methods to launder the money. Still, the agency and its international partners were able to follow the money laundering process around the clock and make it more difficult for the hackers to continue stealing funds.
Marianne Bender, First State Attorney, said that the agencies’ cooperation helped yield positive results. He elaborated that the money launderers aim to get the cryptocurrency out into other forms of currency that can be used in the physical world.
As explained by Bender, North Korea uses ill-gotten money to facilitate its nuclear weapons program. Therefore, he has stressed that it is important to track cryptocurrencies and try to prevent North Korean cyber criminals from cashing out their ill-gotten funds.
Notably, the unit will continue to follow the money laundering process of the hackers and try to stop them. They also intend to confiscate any money they try to withdraw in the physical world in the coming times.
The seizure of funds originates from money stolen from the game Axie Infinity. The authorities have promised to work with Sky Mavis to ensure that the affected parties restore the funds to the greatest extent possible.
North Korea is a world leader when it comes to crimes associated with crypto. The nation’s criminal activities have been on the regulators’ radar for a while. In June last year, the Lazarus group was accused of hacking Harmony Bridge, a crypto service which lets crypto assets be traded between Harmony blockchain and other blockchains. The hackers stole $100 million worth of crypto, including Ether, Tether and wrapped Bitcoin.
With the increasing vigilance around crypto-related criminal activities, the collaboration between international agencies marks a great step. The Norwegian investigation agency has also enjoyed cooperating with the FBI and the U.S. Department of Justice.
In November, The OFAC of the U.S. Treasury Department amended the sanctions on cryptocurrency mixer Tornado Cash and added two people to its list of Specially Designated Nationals engaged in “transportation and procurement activities” for the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. Notably, the Lazarus group used Tornado Cash to launder more than $96 million in cryptocurrencies.
Earlier this month, the United Nations also briefed about North Korea’s crypto heist in a report. The international body noted that North Korea stole $630 million of crypto last year, adding that 2022 was undoubtedly a record-breaking year for North Korean cryptocurrency theft.