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NEWS: Crypto laundromat which washed €44M in dirty money is taken down in operation by German, US police

By Alisha Houlihan for AMLi

POLICE on both sides of the Atlantic today reported bringing down a massive money laundering operation using a cryptocurrency mixer at its heart.

Criminals are suspected laundering of 152 000 Bitcoins (worth roughly BILLION) through the ‘ChipMixer’ platform. Much of the dirty money was connected to darkweb markets, ransomware groups, illicit goods trafficking, procurement of child sexual exploitation material, and stolen crypto assets.

Officers in Germany and the US said they took down the infrastructure of the “laundromat” platform, seizing about 1909.4 Bitcoins in 55 transactions (approx. €44.2 million) and 7 TB of data.

Ransomware actors such as Zeppelin, SunCrypt, Mamba, Dharma or Lockbitused this service to launder ransom payments they received, Europol said.

Authorities meanwhile were investigating the possibility some of the crypto assets stolen after the bankruptcy of a large crypto exchange in 2022 were laundered via ChipMixer.

The operation also spanned Belgium, Poland and Switzerland and involved seizing  four servers. Police said they targeted ChipMixer, a cryptocurrency mixer well-known in the cybercriminal underworld.

ChipMixer is unlicensed cryptocurrency mixer set up in mid-2017, was specialised in mixing or cutting trails related to virtual currency assets.

The ChipMixer software blocked the blockchain trail of the funds, making it attractive for cybercriminals looking to launder illegal proceeds from criminal activities such as drug trafficking, weapons trafficking, ransomware attacks, and payment card fraud.

Deposited funds would be turned into “chips” (small tokens with equivalent value), which were then mixed together – thereby anonymising all trails to where the initial funds originated. 

A service available both on the clear and on the darkweb, ChipMixer offered full anonymity to their clients. This type of service is often used before criminals’ laundered crypto assets are redirected to crypto exchanges – some of which are also in the service of organised crime gangs.

They added this made it “attractive for cybercriminals looking to launder illegal proceeds from criminal activities” such as drug trafficking, weapons trafficking, ransomware attacks, and payment card fraud.  

At the end of the process, the ‘cleaned’ crypto can easily be exchanged into other cryptocurrencies or directly into FIAT currency though ATM or bank accounts. 

In a statement Europol said national authorities “took down the infrastructure of the platform for its alleged involvement in money laundering activities”

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