Norway’s National Authority for Investigation and Prosecution of Economic and Environmental Crime (Okokrim) has announced the recovery of $5.9 million from Axie Infinity’s Ronin Bridge hackers.
The seizure by Okokrim is Norway’s single biggest digital currency bust, marking an increasing interest by the country’s law enforcement agencies in clamping down on digital crime. Okokrim’s seizure came after months of on-chain tracking of the stolen funds and collaboration with law enforcement entities from other countries.
“Okokrim is good at following the trail of money,” said Senior Prosecutor Marianne Bender. “This case shows that we also have a great capacity to follow the money on the blockchain, even if the criminals use advanced methods.”
Okokrim’s public statement noted that it received assistance from the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) in seizing the funds. Investigations confirmed that the hack was the work of the North Korea-backed Lazarus Group that stole a staggering $615 million from the Ronin Bridge.
The infamous attack held the record as the largest digital currency heist in history, with the bad actors using digital currency mixers to launder the funds. Multiple reports have suggested that North Korea has been using the stolen virtual funds to fund its nuclear weapons research in the face of stern sanctions against the pariah nation.
Since 2020, North Korean hacking groups have pilfered over $1 billion worth of digital assets from individuals and firms in the digital currency industry.
“This is money that can support North Korea and their nuclear weapons program,” said Bender. “It has therefore been important to track the cryptocurrency and try to stop the money when they try to withdraw it in physical value.”
Although the seizure is only a fraction of the total loot, Okokrim confirmed that the funds would be used to compensate affected Axie Infinity users for the losses suffered.
Striking back against hackers
Law enforcement agents are pulling all strings to smother the activities of digital asset hackers, going all the way to repossessing stolen digital currencies. In recent months, law enforcement agencies have recorded some successes with the recovery of a portion of the Colonial Pipeline ransom and other assets from other similar attacks.
The sanctioning of digital currency mixer Tornado Cash by the U.S. Treasury is considered a significant blow against hackers. Since its creation in 2019, Tornado Cash has been used to launder over $6 billion in digital currencies by criminal entities.
The U.K. and U.S. authorities have issued sanctions against members of a Russian hacking group following multiple attacks on educational and health institutions.
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