18.01.2021

North Korea Set Up a Blockchain Firm to Launder Cash

The report claims a man named Julian Kim, under the alias Tony Walker, was the sole owner and investor in the firm, and had attempted to withdraw money from banks in Singapore on several occasions. As per Chosun, the UN claims the laundering scheme, which also involved another undisclosed individual linked to the firm, circulated the stolen crypto through upwards of 5,000 transactions in multiple countries to obfuscate its source.

North Korea has been using a Hong Kong-based blockchain company to launder money, according to a quarterly report from the UN Security Council’s Sanctions Committee on North Korea.

As reported by South Korean newspaper Chosun, North Korea employed a shipping and logistics firm called Marine China, which runs on a blockchain platform, to avoid international sanctions by laundering stolen cryptocurrency.

The report further states that North Korea has developed precision “spear-phishing” attacks. Over the past three years, a previous UN report said, 17 countries have been targeted by its hacking experts resulting in over $2 billion in losses – a figure that regime has denied.

Chosun adds that the report also notes the development of malicious code used to move stolen bitcoin to a server located at Pyongyang’s Kim Il-sung University.

Severe sanctions against North Korea from the UN and other international bodies have pushed the country’s regime towards cryptocurrencies over time. This September, Vice reported the country is developing its own cryptocurrency with properties similar to bitcoin to sidestep international sanctions.

North Korea Denies It Stole $2 Billion From Crypto Exchanges and Banks

North Korea is denying accusations of obtaining $2 billion through hacking banks and cryptocurrency exchanges.

North Korea accuses the United States of spreading rumours

On Sept. 1, the country’s official state media, the Korea Central News Agency (KCNA) denied allegations of massive theft by North Korean agents.

As Cointelegraph previously reported, the United Nations Security Council North Korea sanctions committee said that “Democratic People’s Republic of Korea cyber actors were raising money for its WMD (weapons of mass destruction) programs, with total proceeds to date estimated at up to two billion US dollars.”

In response, KCNA cited a statement from the National Coordination Committee of the DPRK for Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism, which claims that the United States and other hostile forces are now spreading slanderous rumors. It said:

“Such a fabrication by the hostile forces is nothing but a sort of a nasty game aimed at tarnishing the image of our Republic and finding justification for sanctions and pressure campaign against the DPRK.”

The statement further adds that the UN is “re-enacting the same old trick as the Hitler fascist propagandists used to cling to.”

South Korea Hardest Hit By North Korean Cyber Attacks

As Cointelegraph previously reported, the UN was investigating 35 purported North Korean cyberattacks across 17 countries, of which 10 were directly targeted at South Korea, while India was the victim of three attacks.

Nonprofit Launches Blockchain Platform for Credit History in Sierra Leone

San Francisco-based nonprofit Kiva, a company that crowdfunds loans for financial inclusion, has launched a blockchain platform for credit history with the government of Sierra Leone.

According to a Reuters report on Aug. 21, Kiva and President of Sierra Leone Julius Maada Bio jointly launched the blockchain initiative in the country’s capital.

The platform will use biometric data collected by the government, such as fingerprints, in order to access the credit history of citizens in the country. This will purportedly give a way for lenders to obtain citizens’ credit history.

Individuals looking to borrow money would have a digital wallet for loans and their transactions would be recorded on a blockchain. The digital wallet will be provided through an app and its partners will purportedly provide mobile wifi hotspots to ensure that users have access to the internet.

According to the Information Ministry in Sierra Leone, over 85% of the country’s population lacks internet access. Moreover, the country’s central bank states that over 75% of the population is unbanked. Locals instead rely on informal institutions such as community banks, but these organizations either will not share credit information or will do so only for very high fees.

President Bio stated that the government is aiming to have all banks and microfinance institutions in the country set up with the blockchain system by the year’s end. David Sengeh, the head of Sierra Leone’s Directorate of Science, commented:

“Lack of identification, or an inability to verify that identification for credit purposes, increases the cost of business for everyone.”

Bio first announced that the government was working with Kiva on the network at the 73rd Session of the United Nations General Assembly last year.

Banking the unbanked with blockchain apps

As previously reported by Cointelegraph, internet crowdsourcing company Share Internet Data Ltd (SID) and private equity firm LDJ Capital co-launched an app – LDJ Digital – for blockchain-based, digital banking. The stated goal of the app is to provide banking services for all unbanked persons. The app is integrated into the SID platform, which itself is an app that lets users provide temporary internet access to others via mobile devices – similar to a wifi hotspot’s functionality.

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