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Millions of dollars worth of cryptocurrency found in sanctioned wallets: Elliptic

Russia-Ukraine conflict: Blockchain analytics firm Elliptic linked atleast 15 million crypto addresses to Russian-related criminal activity.

Russia’s leaders are using cryptocurrency to bypass the sanctions imposed by US and its allies after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, said Blockchain analytics firm Elliptic. The research firm has tracked down a Russian crypto wallet which has ‘significant asset holdings’.

Tom Robinson, the co founder of Elliptic told Bloomberg that the wallet contains millions of dollars that belong to sanctioned Russians officials and oligarchs. While the company did not reveal the exact value of the cryptocurrency it discovered in the sanctioned wallet but it has already identified more than 400 crypto platforms that facilitate trade between anonymous users in rubles. The company linked at least 15 million crypto addresses to Russian-related criminal activity.

“It’s not proving out realistic that oligarchs can completely bypass sanctions by moving all their wealth into crypto. Crypto is highly traceable. Crypto can and will be used for sanctions evasion, but it’s not the silver bullet,” said Robinson, according to Bloomberg.

Recently, cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase said it blocked over 25,000 addresses related to Russian individuals or entities that the company believes “to be engaging in illicit activity.”

Changpeng Zhao, CEO of cryptocurrency exchange Binance also said that the exchange is freezing the accounts of Russians targeted by international sanctions.

“Binance follows sanctions rules very strictly. Whoever is on the sanctions list, they won’t be able to use our platform, for whoever is not, they can,” Zhao said in an interview. “Expanding restrictions beyond the list of sanctioned individuals would be “unethical for us to do,” he added.

Earlier this week, blockchain analytics firm Chainalysis launched two sanction screening tools—chain oracle and an API tool to identify any crypto wallet address associated with the country that is being sanctioned. The analytics firm said in a blog post said that it is concerned “about the potential for cryptocurrency to be used by sanctioned entities and individuals in Russia for sanctions evasion.”

According to Chainalysis, given the transparency of blockchains, it would be difficult for the Russian government or financial elite to systematically evade sanctions at scale through cryptocurrency without detection. However, the company believes that some sanctioned Russian actors may attempt to use cryptocurrency as a means to evade sanctions.

(Inputs from Bloomberg)


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