Europol, the European Union’s law enforcement agency, has announced the takedown of one of the world’s largest cryptocurrency mixers, ChipMixer. The operation involved Europol and several other international law enforcement agencies, including those from the US, Germany, Switzerland, Belgium, and Poland. The authorities seized 1,909 Bitcoin, which is worth nearly $50 million, four servers, and seven terabytes of data during the operation.
Europol alleged that ChipMixer has facilitated the laundering of 152,000 Bitcoin, which is approximately $3.69 billion, since 2017. The cryptocurrency mixer was being used by dark web markets, ransomware groups, and those involved in the trafficking of illicit goods, procurement of child sexual exploitation material, and stolen cryptocurrency assets.
This is not the first time that Europol has taken action against cryptocurrency firms involved in illegal activities. In January, Europol and Eurojust dismantled a cryptocurrency fraud network and seized over $1 million in cryptocurrencies and €50,000 in cash. They also arrested 15 people operating from Bulgaria, Cyprus, and Serbia.
In addition to Europol’s actions, the US government has also been cracking down on cryptocurrency mixers. In 2022, the US Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) sanctioned Tornado Cash, a decentralized cryptocurrency mixer, for allegedly facilitating transactions for ransomware actors.
Tornado Cash, which was launched in 2020, allows users to mix their Ethereum (ETH) coins with others in a decentralized manner to obscure the trail of their transactions. The US government has accused the platform of being used by ransomware groups to launder illicit funds.
However, Tornado Cash has denied the accusations, stating that it is a privacy-preserving tool that can be used for legal purposes. The platform has also implemented measures to prevent its services from being used for illegal activities, such as blacklisting certain addresses associated with ransomware attacks.
The takedown of ChipMixer and the US sanctions on Tornado Cash highlight the increasing scrutiny of cryptocurrency mixers by international law enforcement agencies. While these platforms can be used for legitimate purposes, their anonymity features make them attractive to those involved in illegal activities such as money laundering and ransomware attacks. As such, authorities are likely to continue their efforts to combat the use of cryptocurrency mixers by criminals.