Authorities shut down BTC Mixer ChipMixer, seizes $46M

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Key takeaways:

  • Authorities claim that over the past five years, ChipMixer has moved 152,000 BTC ($2.88 billion).
  • The platform’s infrastructure was taken down by officials, who also seized four servers and seven terabytes of data.

The cryptocurrency mixer ChipMixer’s assets were allegedly seized on March 15 by The European Union Agency for Law Enforcement Cooperation, or Europol, due to the company’s alleged participation in money laundering operations.

The total assets confiscated include 1,909.4 Bitcoin worth 44.2 million euros ($46 million) in 55 transactions. Previously, on November 25, 2022, decentralized finance expert ZachXBT claimed that the hacker(s) of the now-defunct crypto exchange FTX moved 360 BTC ($5.9 million) utilizing ChipMixer following a $372 million breach.

In addition, the ChipMixer website was taken offline after the authorities seized four of the servers used to host the program. Since its launch in 2017, according to Europol, the app has allegedly moved more than 2.73 billion euros. Law enforcement authorities claim:

“The ChipMixer software blocked the blockchain trail of the funds, making it attractive for cybercriminals looking to launder illegal proceeds from criminal activities.”

According to law enforcement, a significant portion of this is related to dark web markets, malware organizations, illicit goods trafficking, acquiring materials for child sexual abuse, and stolen crypto assets. When money was deposited into ChipMixer, it was converted into “chips,” or small tokens of equal value, combined to hide the original money trail. 

The Central Cybercrime Bureau of Poland, the Federal Criminal Police Office of Germany, the Cantonal Police of Zurich, Switzerland, the Federal Police of Belgium, the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation, the United States Department of Homeland Security, and the United States Department of Justice integrated the investigation and subsequent prosecution.

“Ransomware actors such as Zeppelin, SunCrypt, Mamba, Dharma or Lockbit have also used this service to launder ransom payments they have received. Authorities are also investigating the possibility that some of the crypto assets stolen after the bankruptcy of a large crypto exchange in 2022 were laundered via ChipMixer.”

Information sharing between national agencies for the operation was facilitated by Europol. The organization claimed to have supported the probe through operational analysis, crypto tracing, forensic analysis, and linking the available data to criminal cases inside and outside the EU.

In August 2022, the Office of Foreign Asset Management of the U.S. Treasury Department imposed sanctions on Tornado Cash, an Ethereum-based mixing service, for aiding North Korea’s money-laundering activities. This resulted in a rise in the popularity of mixing services. Web engineer Alexey Pertsev for Tornado Cash was detained shortly after that.

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