The FBI and Ukrainian police have seized nine cryptocurrency exchange websites that facilitated money laundering for scammers and cybercriminals, including ransomware actors.
In its announcement, the FBI says the operation was carried out with the help of the Virtual Currency Response Team, the National Police of Ukraine, and legal prosecutors in the country.
The nine websites and their servers seized in this operation are:
Visiting any of these domains today displays the seizure banner below, alternating its message between Russian and English.
The seized sites allowed users to anonymously convert cryptocurrency into harder-to-trace coins to obscure the money trace and help cybercriminals launder their pilfers without being traced by law enforcement.
Most of these platforms offered users live support and instructions in Russian and English, covering a broad spectrum of cybercriminal communities.
“Noncompliant virtual currency exchanges, which have a lax anti-money laundering program or collect minimal Know Your Customer information or none at all, serve as important hubs in the cybercrime ecosystem and are operating in violation of Title 18 United States Code, Sections 1960 and 1956,” reads FBI’s announcement.
“By providing these services, the virtual currency exchanges knowingly support the criminal activities of their clients and become co-conspirators in criminal schemes.”
The website’s servers were located in the United States, Ukraine, and various European countries and were also seized during the law enforcement operation.
The seized infrastructure can be analyzed by law enforcement to unmask cybercriminals who laundered money through the sites, potentially leading to more arrests in the future.
Crackdowns on cryptocurrency laundering networks are very important, as those platforms enable hackers to continue their extortion activities unabated and use the stolen funds in the real world.
By dismantling these services, law enforcement agencies not only hinder the financial operations of ransomware groups but also send a strong message to operators of such platforms that illegal or shady activities will not be tolerated.
In March 2023, the FBI, together with Europol and the German police, seized the ‘ChipMixer’ cryptocurrency mixing service, which was used by hackers, ransomware gangs, and scammers to launder their proceeds.
More recently, on April 24, 2023, the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) sanctioned brokers who supported North Korean cryptocurrency laundering networks.
Finally, at the start of the year, the U.S. DoJ arrested the founder of Bizlato, a Hong Kong-registered cryptocurrency exchange, over allegations of helping cybercriminals launder illegally obtained money.