North Korea using cryptocurrencies to evade US sanctions, experts say
To avoid the economic sanctions imposed by the United States, North Korea has reportedly been using cryptocurrencies “increasingly,” according to two Washington-based financial analysts.
On Monday, news outlet Asia Times published a report quoting Lourdes Miranda, an independent financial analyst and financial crimes investigator, and Ross Delston, an independent attorney and expert witness in money laundering cases. The two financial experts claimed that the highly secretive and totalitarian Asian country has been using virtual currencies, and is also working to develop its own crypto in the near future.
According to the analysts, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) has been using cryptocurrencies for quite some time already as these provide the state more ways to get around U.S. sanctions.
To cover their tracks, the analysts claimed North Korea has been sending their money to different cryptocurrency exchanges, which make it harder for individuals or states to scan and track their activities. The analysts also believe the government could be moving to various cryptocurrencies to obscure the origin of their funds.
“International criminals everywhere prefer crypto-currencies and the DPRK is no exception. Cryptocurrencies have the added advantage to the DPRK of giving them more ways to circumvent U.S. sanctions. They can do so by using multiple international exchangers, mixing and shifting services — mirroring the money laundering cycle,” according to the analysts.
In their research, Miranda and Delston discovered that North Korea initially hired people who have convenient personal identifiable information (PII) to open crypto wallets. These wallets were then used by the authorities to trade cryptocurrencies. Eventually, local miners would transfer cryptocurrencies into numerous European wallets where the mixing and shifting are done to confuse the anti-money laundry (AML) and know your customer (KYC) systems.
According to the report, the process ends with a North Korean nominee buying BTC that are later converted to other popular cryptos like Bitcoin Cash, as well as ETH or LTC, before they’re traded to fiat.
The report comes several weeks after South Korea’s own Korea Development Bank (KDB) suggested that North Korea has been mining cryptocurrencies, albeit on a small scale. Additionally, it appears that a technology company in the country is developing an exchange platform for cryptocurrency, even though the report noted that the average citizens of North Korea have little or no knowledge of cryptocurrency.
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