Two founders of Twister Money, a cryptocurrency mixing service that has been underneath scrutiny by varied US companies for greater than a 12 months, have been charged with serving to launder greater than $1 billion for purchasers that included a North Korean cybercrime group.


Roman Storm and Roman Semenov have been charged with conspiring to launder cash, violate US sanctions and function an unlicensed money-transmitting enterprise. Twister Money claimed to supply untraceable and nameless monetary transactions utilizing a cryptocurrency.

US efforts to close down Twister Money and punish two of its cofounders has sparked a battle between the federal government, which seeks to choke off the worldwide circulation of unlawful cash, and plenty of crypto advocates who wish to see elevated privateness in monetary transactions.

The boys knew that the service was a “a haven for criminals to have interaction in large-scale cash laundering and sanctions evasion,” US prosecutors in Manhattan stated in a press release.


Twister Money allegedly acquired cash from the North Korean group, the Lazarus Group, by taking in cryptocurrency from an Ethereum pockets that was publicly tied to Lazarus and designated as a blocked supply by the US, prosecutors stated.

“Whereas publicly claiming to supply a technically refined privateness service, Storm and Semenov actually knew that they have been serving to hackers and fraudsters conceal the fruits of their crimes,” Damian Williams, the US Lawyer for the Southern District of New York, stated in a press release.

Storm, 34, was arrested Wednesday in Washington state and was anticipated to look in courtroom. Semenov, 35, a Russian citizen, isn’t in custody, Williams stated.

‘Novel Authorized Principle’

Storm has been cooperating with the federal government’s investigation since final 12 months and denies any felony conduct, his lawyer, Brian Klein, stated in a press release.

“We’re extremely dissatisfied that the prosecutors selected to cost Mr. Storm as a result of he helped develop software program, they usually did so primarily based on a novel authorized idea with harmful implications for all software program builders,” Klein stated.

The US sanctioned the Lazarus Group in 2019 and Twister Money in 2022. The Treasury Division stated in a press release Wednesday that the Lazarus Group used Twister Money to cowl up the motion of greater than $455 million stolen throughout a March 2022 crypto heist — nonetheless the most important to this point.

The US Treasury Division sanctioned Semenov on Wednesday for “offering materials assist” to Twister Money and to the Lazarus Group.

“Twister Money has been used to launder funds for felony actors since its creation in 2019, together with to obfuscate tons of of tens of millions of {dollars} in digital forex stolen by Lazarus Group hackers,” in keeping with the Treasury Division assertion.

Hackers are nonetheless making an attempt to money out stolen property through different means, the FBI warned on Wednesday, noting an increase in latest exercise.

‘Criminalizing’ Software program Publication

However an official at Coin Heart, a non-profit group specializing in crytocurrency coverage points, echoed considerations from Storm’s lawyer that the federal government had gone too far.

“We’re actually involved that this motion could possibly be criminalizing the mere publication of software program,” stated Peter Van Valkenburgh, director of analysis at Coin Heart.

A federal decide in Austin, Texas, final week rejected a bid by Twister Money customers to problem the Treasury Division’s authority to sanction the service. US District Decide Robert Pitman dominated that the division’s Workplace of International Belongings Management had acted inside its powers.

Pitman additionally dominated in opposition to the customers’ declare that OFAC’s actions violated their First Amendement free-speech rights “to have interaction in vital, socially invaluable speech,” through the use of Twister Money to make donations to vital political and social causes.

The case is US v. Storm, 23-cr-00430, US District Courtroom, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

Photograph: The Twister Money web site displayed on a laptop computer and smartphone display organized in London. Photographer: Luke MacGregor/Bloomberg

Copyright 2023 Bloomberg.

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