Tornado Cash developers charged with money laundering in US

Founders of crypto mixer Tornado Cash, Roman Storm and Roman Semenov, are indicted on charges including money laundering, potentially facing 20 years in prison.

In the Aug. 23 press release, Roman Storm and Roman Semenov, the developers behind Tornado Cash, have been accused of processing hundreds of millions of dollars for North Korea’s Lazarus Group, a hacking entity subjected to sanctions. 

The charges stem from their purported establishment, management, and promotion of Tornado Cash, a cryptocurrency mixer reportedly enabling over $1 billion in money laundering transactions.

Both Storm and Semenov are being held with a single charge each of conspiring to engage in money laundering and conspiring to breach the International Economic Emergency Powers Act. If these charges end in convictions, Strom and Semenov will have a prison sentence of up to 20 years.

Both parties are also facing a charge of conspiring to run an unlicensed money-transmitting business, which coincides with a sentence of five years.

On the same day of this announcement, Storm was apprehended in Washington state, as stated by the Department of Justice, while Semenov, a Russian citizen, remains evading authorities. Alexey Pertsev, the third co-founder, unconnected to this legal action, is slated for trial in Amsterdam concerning his role with Tornado Cash.

The indictment further claimed that Storm and Semenov consciously omitted the implementation of mandatory know-your-customer and anti-money laundering protocols, as mandated by law. Instead, they promoted the tumbler as a platform enabling untraceable and anonymous financial transactions.

Maintaining sanctions compliance

Criminals are increasingly turning to cryptocurrency mixers as a preferred means to conceal their unlawfully acquired proceeds. By design, crypto mixers enhance the privacy of their cryptocurrency transactions, amalgamating potentially traceable cryptocurrency funds with larger pools of funds. Such services frequently obfuscate fund transfers between platforms and typically do not necessitate Know Your Customer (KYC) verifications.

Therefore, although there were discussions about whether the Treasury was in bounds to sanction Tornado Cash, barring U.S. citizens from transactions with the service, a federal judge ruled that this decision would stand.

This action proves to be another case of the United States cracking down on the cryptocurrency industry, with the total weight of this ruling to unfold shortly.

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