US warns crypto, banks help Russia evade sanctions

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Wally Adeyemo, US Deputy Secretary of the Treasury, speaks at a press conference at the Department of Justice in Washington, DC, US, on Monday, November 8, 2021.

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The US will hold accountable any actor who wants to help Russia evade economic sanctions amid the Kremlin’s unprovoked attack on Ukraine, US deputy treasury secretary Wally Adeyemo told CNBC on Tuesday.

The US and international allies have imposed a barrage of punitive measures on Russia since the country began its invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24.

The conflict has created a devastating humanitarian crisis, sent shockwaves through financial markets and left Russia increasingly isolated from the global stage.

“We have not seen so far that Russia has been able to evade our sanctions in any meaningful way, but we know they are trying to do this and we know they will try to use every possible means,” Adeyemo told CNBC’s. Street signs Europe.”

He cited cryptocurrencies and opaque shell companies as possible means Russia could use to evade economic sanctions.

“What we want to make very clear to crypto exchanges, to financial institutions, to individuals, to anyone who can help Russia take advantage and evade our sanctions: we will hold you accountable,” Adeyemo said.

“We will come and we will find you, and we will ensure that Russia is unable to circumvent the sanctions we have put in place to make it more difficult for them to prosecute the illegal war in Ukraine.”

Crypto concerns:

His comments come shortly after the G-7’s major economies pledged to ensure that the Russian state, elites, proxies and oligarchs would not be able to use digital assets to evade the impact of international sanctions.

The G-7 group consists of the UK, US, Canada, Japan, Germany, France and Italy.

Digital currencies have proved helpful in bolstering Ukraine’s defenses, with the government raising millions of dollars in crypto donations from the public. At the same time, regulators are concerned about its possible use in evading sanctions against Russia.

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People who transact in cryptocurrencies are kept anonymous, often making them a prime target for cybercriminals. However, experts say it is possible to trace the movement of funds thanks to the public nature of the blockchain, an immutable record of all digital currency transactions.

Nevertheless, crypto exchanges have come under pressure from politicians, including Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, to introduce stricter controls to prevent sanctioned individuals and companies from moving their funds into crypto.

— CNBCs Ryan Browne contributed to this report.

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