Record cryptocurrency seizure in the Axie case
Økokrim has seized almost NOK 60 million in cryptocurrency. This is the largest amount of cryptocurrency ever seized by the Norwegian police.
It is also one of the largest seizures of money ever made in Norway. The seizure was made in the course of Økokrim's (the Norwegian National Authority for Investigation and Prosecution of Economic and Environmental Crime) investigation of the digital attack against the company Sky Mavis and its game Axie Infinity.
– Økokrim are experts at following the money. This case shows that we are also good at following the money on the blockchain even though criminals use advanced techniques to avoid detection, says Senior Public Prosecutor Marianne Bender.
In March 2022, approx. NOK 5 billion in cryptocurrency was stolen from the game. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the North Korean hacker group Lazarus was behind the theft. Immediately after the attack, the group started a massive money laundering operation using very sophisticated methods, that is still ongoing.
Cooperation across time zones
Økokrim has over time been working to trace the proceeds from the theft. Økokrim and its international partners have monitored the money laundering process around the clock.
This has made it possible for Økokrim to trace a lot of the money and hamper the laundering process for the hackers.
– We work with the FBI's specialists in cryptocurrency tracing. This kind of cooperation between countries strengthens society's capacity to combat digital profit-motivated crime, says Bender.
Prevents the money being used to finance crime
The launderers' aim is to convert the cryptocurrency into money that can be used in the real world.
– This is money that can be used to finance the North Korean regime and their nuclear weapons programme. It has therefore been important to trace the cryptocurrency and try to stop the assets from being converted into regular currency, says Bender.
Økokrim will continue to monitor the hackers' money laundering operation and will try to stop cryptocurrency from being converted into regular currency and seize the money before it can be used in the real world.
The seizure stems from cryptocurrency stolen from the online game Axie Infinity and Økokrim will work with the company Sky Mavis to ensure that the money is returned to the victims. Økokrim thanks the FBI and the U.S. Department of Justice for their assistance in this matter.