Ukraine seized $3m from a crypto broker laundering money for Russians

The Ukrainian Prosecutor General's office announced they shut down a crypto trading desk that was converting “dirty” cash and non-cash assets into cryptocurrencies without paying taxes.

The law enforcement agency seized about $1.6 million in different currencies (850k EUR, 470k USD, 460k UAH), 830 kilograms of silver, three apartments, and six plots of land from the alleged money launderers. The total value of the seized assets amounts to 100 million hryvnias, or about $3.3 million. No crypto assets or wallets were mentioned.

According to the official statement, the crypto broker was servicing Russian citizens, as well as inhabitants of the so-called Donetsk and Luhansk People's Republics, converting their “dirty” proceeds into clean cryptocurrencies. The crypto desk operators will face tax evasion, money laundering, and fraud charges.

After Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, the US and most EU countries imposed heavy sanctions on its leadership, corporations, and banks. Both parties of the conflict have since weaponized crypto for their own gains, Ukraine for soliciting donations across the world and Russia for sidestepping sanctions damage.

Given Russia’s heightened interest in cryptocurrencies, some experts warn that the country may follow the steps of North Korea, using crypto to conceal its profits from international trade. To address these worries, blockchain analysis firm Chainalysis introduced in March two free sanctions screening tools that would identify transactions by sanctioned entities.