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UN Says Hong Kong Blockchain Firm Is a Laundering Service For North Korea

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UN Says Hong Kong Blockchain Firm Is a Laundering Service For North Korea
UN Says Hong Kong Blockchain Firm Is a Laundering Service For North Korea

The United Nations Security Council’s Sanctions Committee on North Korea has accused the country of using a Hong Kong-based blockchain firm as a front to launder money. As South Korean newspaper Chosun Ilbo reported on Nov. 6, the committee investigated the various strategies allegedly employed by the North to evade sanctions using cryptocurrencies and other means.

The Committee alleges that “Marine China” — a blockchain-focused shipping and logistics firm registered in Hong Kong — was created by North Korean actors; its owner and sole investor is purportedly an individual named Julian Kim, who also operates under the alias “Tony Walker.” Kim has reportedly appointed a second, unnamed individual to head the firm and has allegedly attempted to withdraw undisclosed sums of cash several times from Singaporean banks.

North Korean intelligence services are also accused of grooming cyber agents from childhood for future careers as hackers skilled at stealing cryptocurrency. The investigation alleges that cryptocurrency stolen by North Korea in 2018 was converted into cash via at least 5,000 discrete transactions across multiple countries, making the laundering activity “difficult to track.” Hackers from the North are reported to be using spear-phishing methods to conduct precision attacks, as in the case of an operation targeting the computer network of a bank in Bangladesh back 2016.

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Seventeen countries are thought to have been targeted by North Korea’s spear-phishing attacks over the past three years, with damages totaling an estimated $2 billion. Hackers’ strategies further reportedly include malicious code designed to launder stolen Bitcoin (BTC) to a server-based at Kim Il-sung University in Pyongyang.

Recent reports have suggested that North Korea is allegedly pursuing the development of its own central bank digital currency, even though at an official level, the DPRK has so far refused to comment on the claims.

Altcoin News

‘I Think XRP Is a Scam’ Says Ben Askren Former UFC Star And Bitcoin Advocate

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‘I Think XRP Is a Scam’ Says Ben Askren Former UFC Star And Bitcoin Advocate
‘I Think XRP Is a Scam’ Says Ben Askren Former UFC Star And Bitcoin Advocate

As regulatory concerns over XRP — the world’s third-biggest crypto asset — have intensified, some celebrities are stepping in to voice more FUD about the coin. Ben Askren, former UFC fighter and known Bitcoin (BTC) bull, has driven more scepticism toward XRP with a short tweet on Jan. 28: “I think XRP is a scam.”

Askren’s latest cryptocurrency verdict builds on a background of previous endorsements of other cryptocurrencies. The famous former Olympic wrestler is not only bullish on Bitcoin, but also supports Charlie Lee-founded Litecoin (LTC), the seventh biggest cryptocurrency by market cap as of press time. In January 2019, Askren was purportedly sponsored by the Litecoin Foundation as the mixed martial arts fighter for UFC 235 event. Subsequently, the UFC fighter appeared on his Instagram wearing a Litecoin-branded t-shirt. The celebrity has also promoted Bitcoin on his Twitter in October 2019:

“Just bought more BTC using @eToro was really easy, now all of you twitter geniuses can tell me Crypto is a scam while my assets go up!”

As Askren has been known as a shill for BTC and LTC for a while, a user on Twitter asked him a question: “The fact @Benaskren is staying quiet on XRP tells me its going to take it a long time if ever to moon.” Askren’s verdict didn’t take long, and a part of the crypto community on Twitter expressed some negative stance toward XRP, while the tweet has amassed over 2,000 likes as of press time.

Askren’s statement about XRP comes amid an already worsened situation around the coin as XRP dropped over 40% from $0.364 in 2019 to $0.183 in December, marking a two-year low. The situation has been exacerbated by rising concerns over the unclear regulatory status of XRP’s issuing company, Ripple, which faces a class-action lawsuit alleging that it held an unregistered sale of securities. Despite all this, CEO Brad Garlinghouse has recently hinted at an initial public offering for Ripple, which undoubtedly has some implications for the fate of altcoin. At press time, XRP is trading at $0.238, up over 1% over the past 24 hours, following a major green trend on crypto markets.

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Regulation News

UK High Court Issues A Freeze on $1M of Bitcoin In A Ransomware Case

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UK High Court Issues A Freeze on $1M of Bitcoin in Ransomware Case
UK High Court Issues A Freeze on $1M of Bitcoin In A Ransomware Case

A United Kingdom High Court ordered a proprietary injunction on Bitcoin (BTC) obtained through a ransomware attack on a Canadian insurance company. A proprietary injunction is an order which prevents a person from dealing with their own assets when it is subject of a proprietary claim. On Jan. 17, the UK High Court released documents concerning a ransomware attack, in which over 1,000 computers of the insurance company were rendered unusable through the use of malware that encrypted files, making them unaccessible.

The unidentified attackers demanded $1.2 million in Bitcoin in exchange for decrypting the data. The firm’s insurer covered the client’s losses from cybercrime and agreed with the hackers to pay $950,000 in Bitcoin to decrypt the files, and received a tool to unlock them 24 hours after making the payment. Still, the company needed 10 days to restore all of its systems, including 20 servers and 1,000 desktop computers.

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The company’s insurer hired blockchain major analytics firm Chainalysis to track the ransom. The analysis revealed that most of the Bitcoin, 96 BTC had been immediately laundered through crypto exchange Bitfinex. The court required Bitfinex to provide any information concerning the holder of the account that received the ransom by Dec. 18, 2019. Bitfinex did not clarify the status of the ransomers’ Bitcoin or what data was handed over to the court, stating:

“Bitfinex has robust systems in place to allow it to assist law enforcement authorities and litigants in cases such as this. In this case we have assisted the Claimant to trace the stolen Bitcoin and we understand the focus of the Claimant’s attention is no longer on the Bitfinex platform. It now appears Bitfinex is an entirely innocent party mixed up in this wrongdoing.”

According to a Jan. 25 report from New Money Review, the case is still ongoing. Darragh Connell, the insurance company’s legal representative, said, “Return hearings of the interim injunction will be heard again in due course before Mr Justice Bryan who has reserved the case to himself […] As this is only the interim stage, my client’s claim will need be determined after a trial in the Commercial Court in London.” Ransomware attacks are a major cybersecurity threat and are becoming increasingly advanced. Texas-based data center provider CyrusOne paid a $600,000 ransom in BTC in such an attack. In June 2019, hackers managed to infect the systems of the city council of Riviera Beach with ransomware and encrypt government files. Florida agreed to pay $600,000 worth of Bitcoin to the hackers.

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Scam News

Convicted Thief Of $30 Million Crypto Scheme Allegedly Stole From Hundreds of US Investors

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Convicted Thief Of $30 Million Crypto Scheme Allegedly Stole From Hundreds of US Investors
Convicted Thief Of $30 Million Crypto Scheme Allegedly Stole From Hundreds of US Investors

Boaz “Bo” Manor, a convicted hedge fund scammer, has been charged with raising over $30 million from investors in an allegedly fraudulent initial coin offering. Prosecutors say he ditched his real identity, donned red hair, grew a beard and masqueraded as “Shaun MacDonald,” a blockchain entrepreneur. Prior to surfacing in New York, the notorious scammer spent four years in a Canadian prison after his bogus $730-million hedge fund evaporated in 2005. 

The latest indictment names Manor’s accomplice, Edith Pardo, and two firms, CG Blockchain Inc. and BCT Inc. SEZC, as defendants. The cohorts allegedly sold crypto asset securities between August of 2017 and September of 2018. According to the complaint, they also falsely claimed to have 20 hedge funds piloting technology to register transactions on a blockchain.

The SEC clarified,

“In reality, the defendants had only sent a prototype to a dozen funds, and none of the funds used it or paid for it.”

Joseph G. Sansone, chief of the SEC’s market abuse division, remarked,

“Manor’s brazen scheme to conceal his identity and criminal history deprived investors of essential information and allowed the defendants to take over $30 million from investors’ pockets.”

Pardo has been arrested, but authorities say Manor remains on the run.

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