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US charges three North Koreans over $1.3bn theft

February 18, 2021 1:07 pm

Three North Koreans have been charged in the US over a scheme to steal and extort more than $1.3bn (£940m) from banks and businesses around the world.

The three, who are not in custody, are also accused of deploying malicious cryptocurrency programs.

A Canadian-American citizen was also charged with money laundering.

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The men are also accused of being part of the Wannacry cyber-attack of 2017, which crippled UK health service computer systems on a national scale.

Announcing the charges, Assistant Attorney General for National Security, John Demers, said North Korea “has become a criminal syndicate with a flag”.

One of the defendants, Park Jin Hyok, was previously charged two years ago for his role in the 2014 hacking of Sony Entertainment Pictures.

Mr Park, Jon Chang Hyok and Kim Il are accused of criminal conspiracy, conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraud.

The Department of Justice says the defendants work for the Reconnaissance General Bureau, North Korea’s military intelligence agency.

“North Korea’s operatives, using keyboards rather than guns, stealing digital wallets of cryptocurrency instead of sacks of cash, are the world’s leading bank robbers,” Mr Demers said.

All three men are believed to be in North Korea, which does not extradite its citizens to face US charges.

The Canadian-American man, 37-year-old Ghaleb Alaumary, from Mississauga, Ontario, is accused of being the group’s money launderer in a separate case announced on Wednesday. Officials say he has agreed to plead guilty to the charge.

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