March 3, 2020

Two men indicted for laundering proceeds of alleged North Korean crime

A two-count indictment was unsealed on March 2, 2020 in the US District Court for the District of Columbia, charging two Chinese nationals with conspiracy to commit money laundering, and operating an unlicensed money transmitting business.  The case arises from the hacking theft of currency from four virtual currency exchanges, allegedly committed by conspirators on behalf of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. According to the indictment, Tian Yinyin and Li Jiadong used several virtual currency exchange accounts to receive, and then launder, the proceeds of a criminal hacking theft of $250 million of virtual currency. The indictment alleges that between July 2018 and April 2019, Tian and Li processed over $100 million of the stolen funds through accounts at nine Chinese banks that were linked to their virtual currency exchange accounts, converting the proceeds into fiat currency or purchasing pre-paid gift cards, while using wire communications that transited through the United States.  The US alleges that the defendants’ conduct of financial transactions involving the proceeds of unlawful activity violated 18 USC §§ 1956(a)(1)(A)(i) and 1956(a)(2)(A), and that they supervised or owned an unlicensed money transmitting business in violation of 18 USC § 1960(a).

The indictment also contains forfeiture allegations, and is accompanied by a civil complaint for forfeiture in rem naming 113 virtual currency accounts, and detailing the defendants’ alleged money laundering operations and the measures they took to conceal their identities and evade currency exchange rules that require customers to identify themselves.

On March 2, 2020, Tian Yinyin and Li Jiadong were designated by the Office of Foreign Assets Control of the US Department of the Treasury for their involvement support of the sanctioned DPRK entities allegedly involved in the currency exchange theft and subsequent money laundering.

DOJ press release | Indictment | Forfeiture Complaint