Sanctions 3 Cryptocurrency Exchanges

The U.S. Department of the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) sanctioned three cryptocurrency exchanges for offering services used to evade economic restrictions imposed on Russia following its invasion of Ukraine in early 2022.

This includes Bitpapa IC FZC LLC, Crypto Explorer DMCC (AWEX), and Obshchestvo S Ogranichennoy Otvetstvennostyu Tsentr Obrabotki Elektronnykh Platezhey (TOEP).

In all, the designations cover thirteen entities and two individuals operating in the Russian financial services and technology sectors.


"Many of the individuals and entities designated today facilitated transactions or offered other services that helped OFAC-designated entities evade sanctions," the Treasury said, adding the action seeks to "target companies servicing Russia's core financial infrastructure and curtail Russia's use of the international financial system to further its war against Ukraine."

Bitpapa, which offers virtual currency exchange to Russian nationals, has been accused of facilitating transactions worth millions of dollars with sanctioned Russian entities Hydra Market and Garantex.

Crypto Explorer, the Treasury said, offers currency conversion services between virtual currencies, rubles, and UAE dirhams.

"AWEX offers cash services at its offices in Moscow and Dubai and also loads funds onto credit cards associated with OFAC-designated Russian banks such as Sberbank and Alfa-Bank," it added.

Also sanctioned is another virtual currency exchange run by TOEP that's alleged to have enabled digital payments in rubles and virtual currencies to sanctioned entities such as Sberbank, Alfa-Bank, and Hydra Market.

The penalty list also features Moscow-based fintech companies such as B-Crypto, Masterchain and Laitkhaus, which have partnered with sanctioned Russian banks to issue, exchange, and transfer cryptocurrency assets.

Pursuant to the sanctions, all properties and interests in the U.S. connected to designated individuals and entities will be frozen. Furthermore, entities at least 50% owned directly or indirectly by one or more blocked persons will also be subject to the blockade.

"Russia is increasingly turning to alternative payment mechanisms to circumvent U.S. sanctions and continue to fund its war against Ukraine," said Brian E. Nelson, Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence.

"As the Kremlin seeks to leverage entities in the financial technology space, Treasury will continue to expose and disrupt the companies that seek to help sanctioned Russian financial institutions reconnect to the global financial system."

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