Analysts Suspect Cryptocurrencies Used to Evade US Sanctions in North Korea


Economy & Regulation

During an interview earlier this week, two Washington-based financial intelligence analysts explain that North Korea is using cryptocurrencies to evade US sanctions. The intelligence researchers Lourdes Miranda, and Ross Delston say the Pyŏngyang region is actively trading established digital assets to avoid US financial sanctions that have been imposed since the fifties.

Also read: Developer Paul Sztorc Launches the First Version of Drivechain

US Financial Intelligence Analysts: Cryptocurrencies Give North Korea More Ways to Circumvent US Sanctions

Analysts Suspect Cryptocurrencies Used to Evade US Sanctions in North KoreaAccording to two financial intelligence analysts based in Washington, North Korea has been participating within the cryptocurrency economy. There are numerous sanctions against the country that are largely attributed to its nuclear weapons program. The United States has imposed financial sanctions against North Korea since 1950 which restricts the country from trading with the US under the Trading with the Enemy Act of 1917. In an interview with the Asia Times, financial researchers Ross Delston and Lourdes Miranda say Pyŏngyang and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) use cryptocurrencies to skirt these sanctions.

“Cryptocurrencies have the added advantage to the DPRK of giving them more ways to circumvent US sanctions,” Delston and Miranda explain in a joint statement.

The researchers add:   

They can do so by using multiple international exchangers, mixing and shifting services – mirroring the money laundering cycle – to exploit international financial institutions that have correspondent banking relationships with the United States.

Analysts Suspect Cryptocurrencies Used to Evade US Sanctions in North Korea

Breaking Down the Linear Pattern of Transactions With Other Established Blockchains

The intelligence analysts statements follow recent reports alleging that the DPRK obtained 11,000 BTC either through mining or hacking practices in 2017. Further, last year North Korea had also been accused of hacking South Korean cryptocurrency exchanges. Last month, news.Bitcoin.com reported on possible bitcoin mining activity and digital asset exchange developments in DPRK. The Washington analysts Delston and Miranda state that DPRK miners likely “transfer the cryptocurrencies into multiple European wallets that appear to come from legitimate sources.”

“The money laundering can begin by mixing, shifting and exchanging cryptocurrency into US financial institutions,” the two explain during the interview. Moreover, the researchers detail the DPRK also breaks down “the linear pattern of transactions” by converting to ethereum and litecoin.   

Delston and Miranda further emphasize:

To obscure the origin of DPRK-mined cryptocurrencies, DPRK could transfer its cryptocurrency from multiple European-based wallets and use multiple mixing services in order to purchase bitcoin – the most popular and legitimate cryptocurrency.

Will Sanctions Increase the Demand for Cryptocurrencies?

There also has been a lot of reports of other sanctioned regions like Iran using cryptocurrencies to bypass global trade laws. Even reports stemming from the Gaza Strip indicating Palestinians may be using digital currencies as well. The statements from the financial intelligence analysts and recent reports of cryptocurrency action in North Korea further solidifies the idea that nation states and their citizens can avoid sanctions using digital assets.

What do you think about North Korea using cryptocurrencies to evade US sanctions? Let us know what you think about this subject in the comment section below.


Images via Shutterstock.


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