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The New Spy Gadget of Chinese Intelligence: Wasabi Mixer

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The US Department of Justice (DOJ) has accused two Chinese intelligence officers of attempting to bribe a US government official with US$61,000 worth of bitcoin (BTC) to obtain classified documents relating to the prosecution of Chinese tech giant Huawei.

According to the DOJ, the two agents, Guo Chen He and Zheng Wang, allegedly began to cultivate a relationship with a Federal Bureau of Investigation official who “subsequently began working as a double agent for the US government” in the hopes of obtaining files and other information from the US Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York.

The DOJ also said that the official had received payments in the form of cash, jewellery, and BTC amounting to US$61,000, with US$41,000 in BTC paid in November 2021 and the most recent transaction of US$20,000 in BTC occurring this month.

Blockchain analytics firm Elliptic have since revealed in its analysis of the BTC transactions that the Chinese agents used Wasabi Wallet, a software that mixes BTC from different sources, to conceal their tracks.

“We were able to uniquely identify the bitcoin transactions, based on the details disclosed in the criminal complaint. We then used our blockchain analytics tools to trace the source of the payments and identify the use of Wasabi. We have special techniques for identifying bitcoin addresses associated with Wasabi use,” Tom Robinson, Elliptic co-founder and chief scientist, told Blockhead.

Wasabi Wallet is apparently not the most effective fund mixer. In 2019, another blockchain intelligence firm, Chainalysis, easily traced BTC through Wasabi’s supposedly anonymous mixing service during its investigation into The DAO (which resulted in Ethereum Classic) by exploiting a weakness, eventually leading to allegations revealing the hacker – Singapore-based Toby Hoenisch, a 36-year-old Austrian programmer and co-founder and CEO of TenX.

Read more: Singapore Blockchain CEO Allegedly Behind 2016 Ethereum DAO Hack Worth US$12B