BERLIN (AP) — German investigators said they took down a major online money laundering operation on Wednesday, seizing the Germany-based server infrastructure of a platform that dealt in ill-gotten cryptocurrency.
Bitcoin currently worth about 44 million euros ($47 million) and roughly seven terabytes of data were secured as investigators took down the platform known as ChipMixer, Germany’s Federal Criminal Police Office and Frankfurt prosecutors said. They added that they worked closely with U.S. authorities and the European Union’s crime agency, Europol.
ChipMixer was active on the darknet, a part of the internet accessible only through specialized tools that provide more anonymity. German investigators said it had offered its services since mid-2017 and had accepted cryptocurrency — largely bitcoin — of criminal origin which was put through a “mixing” process to disguise its origin.
Cryptocurrency that was paid in was broken down into tiny amounts known as “chips,” and users’ “chips” were blended together to hide where the money came from, investigators said. They added that ChipMixer promised its users complete anonymity.
The platform is estimated to have laundered a total of about 154,000 bitcoin, or 2.8 billion euros. A significant part of that is believed to have come from darknet market places, fraudulently obtained cryptocurrency, ransomware groups and other crimes.
German investigators said that the FBI is seeking the chief suspect, whom they didn’t identify.