Sanctioned Russians discovered using digital wallets
A crypto-crime firm says it has uncovered information about a digital wallet that may be linked to Russian oligarchs and officials facing sanctions.
As Bloomberg News reported on Monday, March 14, the wallet has “significant crypto-asset holdings,” according to Tom Robinson, co-founder of forensic firm Elliptic.
The company’s discovery comes amid fears in Western nations that wealthy Russians – facing sanctions following the country’s invasion of Ukraine – are using things like bitcoin, tether and coins to confidentiality to circumvent these financial penalties.
Last week, the United States, the European Union, the United Kingdom, and the Group of Seven, or G7, all issued statements indicating that the sanctions against Russia applied specifically to crypto.
Meanwhile, ordinary Ukrainians and Russians have turned to crypto as war affects their country’s banking and payment sectors. Ukraine has also successfully solicited millions of cryptocurrencies to support its defenses.
“Crypto can be used to evade sanctions,” Robinson said. “What is in question is on what scale. It is not realistic that the oligarchs could completely circumvent the sanctions by moving all their wealth into crypto. Crypto is highly traceable. Crypto can and will be used to evade sanctions, but it is not the silver bullet.
Read more: Ukraine War Tests Crypto’s Ability to Bypass Government Controls
Elliptic said it has identified more than 400 virtual asset services that allow their (usually anonymous) customers to buy crypto with rubles. Last week, activity on those exchanges tripled from the week before the war began, Robinson said.
The company has also connected more than 15 million cryptocurrency addresses to criminal activity linked to Russia and found several hundred thousand crypto addresses linked to sanctioned people in Russia and their associates, said Robinson.
Read more: Citing libertarian values, crypto exchange CEOs won’t cut off Russian customers
Crypto exchanges such as Binance and Coinbase Global Inc. said they would abide by the sanctions, but also said they would not comply with Ukraine’s request to stop serving all Russian customers.
“Ordinary Russians are using crypto as a lifeline now that their currency has crashed,” Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong tweeted earlier this month. “Many of them probably object to what their country is doing, and a ban would hurt them as well.”