Thursday, December 8, 2022

Five Russians And Two Venezuelans Evade Sanctions with Crypto

The United States government announced that it has indicted five Russians and two Venezuelans in a 12-count charge in Brooklyn. All seven of them attempted to evade sanctions by using crypto. The five Russian nationals are Yury Orekhov, Artem Uss, Svetlana Kuzurgasheva, also known as “Lana Neumann,” Timofey Telegin, and Sergey Tulyakov. 

According to the filing of the Department of Justice, the Venezuelans were involved as oil traders. They are Juan Fernando Serrano Ponce, also known as “Juanfe Serrano” and Juan Carlos Soto. Majorly, Serrano and Soto were the ones who brokered the illicit oil deal which involved Petroleos de Venezuela S.A.

To enumerate, barrels of oil were shipped off to Russian and Chinese buyers with the influence of Orekhov and Uss. The charges include a network scheme to purchase sophisticated technology with the support of a floundering Russian Federation military-industrial complex. Also, a large amount of the items purchased offshore were transported through sanctioned Russian firms.

“Today we announce the dismantling of a sophisticated network consisting of at least five Russian nationals and two Venezuelan nationals, each of whom are directly linked to corrupt state-owned enterprises, who knowingly sought to conceal the theft of U.S. military technology and profit off black market oil,” said FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Michael J. Driscoll.

Indictment Follows Attempt to Evade Sanctions

Clearly, this network made use of stablecoin Tether (USDT) to trade outside of traditional banking structures. Ultimately, the bad players used cryptocurrency in this practice to evade sanctions that have been levied against them. The five Russians were accused of involvement in money laundering, smuggling, and trading with sanctioned companies.

One such was the illicit oil deals for the Venezuelan state-owned oil company, Petroleos de Venezuela S.A. (PDVSA).

Explicitly, the U.S Attorney Breon Peace also stated “As alleged, the defendants were criminal enablers for oligarchs, orchestrating a complex scheme to unlawfully obtain U.S. military technology and Venezuelan-sanctioned oil through a myriad of transactions involving shell companies and cryptocurrency.  

Their efforts undermined security, economic stability, and rule of law around the world. We will continue to investigate, disrupt and prosecute those who fuel Russia’s brutal war in Ukraine, evade sanctions and perpetuate the shadowy economy of transnational money laundering.”

Meanwhile, cryptocurrency mixer Tornado Cash is currently facing sanctions with the U.S Department of Treasury. Notably, the crypto mixer was sanctioned for getting involved in the laundering of $7 billion. 

 

Victoria Nye
A Blockchain columnist who is enthusiastic about developing a network interface between the real world and the cryptosphere.

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