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Norway seizes record $5.8 million of crypto stolen by North Korea - REUTERS

FEBRUARY 17, 2023

LONDON, Feb 16 (Reuters) - Norway has seized a record $5.8 million worth of cryptocurrency that was stolen by North Korean hackers last year, Norwegian police said in a statement on Thursday.

North Korean hackers stole $625 million in March 2022 from a blockchain project linked to the crypto-based game Axie Infinity. The heist was one of the largest of its kind on record, and was linked by the United States to a North Korean hacking group dubbed "Lazarus".

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"This is money that can be used to finance the North Korean regime and their nuclear weapons programme," Norway's senior public prosecutor, Marianne Bender, said in a statement.

North Korea has denied allegations of hacking or other cyberattacks.

Norway's national economic crime unit, known as Okokrim, said it had seized 60 million Norwegian crowns ($5.84 million) in "one of the largest seizures of money ever made in Norway" and a record amount for a crypto seizure.

Okokrim said it worked with the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation's crypto-tracking specialists.

Last year was the worst on record for cryptocurrency heists, with hackers stealing as much as $3.8 billion, led by attackers linked to North Korea, according to U.S.-based blockchain analytics firm Chainalysis.

Sky Mavis, the company behind Axie Infinity, is based in Vietnam but its founder, Aleksander Larsen, is Norwegian. Larsen declined to comment, but in a tweet thanked cryptocurrency exchange Binance for assisting Norwegian police with the seizure.

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"When we learn of bad actors on our platform, we intervene and take appropriate action, including freezing funds and working with law enforcement to return funds to their rightful owner," a Binance spokesperson said.

North Korea stole more cryptocurrency assets in 2022 than in any other year and targeted the networks of foreign aerospace and defence companies, according to a currently confidential United Nations report seen by Reuters.

Reporting by Elizabeth Howcroft and James Pearson; Editing by Nick Macfie


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