The United Kingdom and the United States join forces to uncover Russia’s illicit cryptocurrency trading worth $20 billion.

in brief

  • The United States and the United Kingdom are collaborating on an investigation targeting approximately $20 billion in cryptocurrency transactions conducted through the Russian exchange Garantex.
  • The primary objective of this investigation is to address the issue of sanctions evasion, a concern shared by both countries.
  • Notably, these transactions predominantly involved Tether (USDT), a cryptocurrency tied to the value of the US dollar, despite Garantex being subjected to sanctions due to suspected financial offenses.
  • Garantex, which was initially licensed in Estonia but has since relocated its operations to Moscow, stands accused by US authorities of facilitating illicit activities amounting to over $100 million.

The collaborative efforts of the United States and the United Kingdom have taken a deep dive into the realm of cryptocurrency, uncovering what appears to be a staggering mishandling of funds totaling a jaw-dropping $20 billion. Yes, you read that correctly—$20 billion with a capital ‘B’.

Their focus? None other than Garantex, the Russian exchange that has found itself entangled in a web of sanctions due to its questionable financial activities. Amidst a flurry of cryptocurrency transactions, there are concerns that these funds could potentially be contributing to Russia’s contentious actions in Ukraine.

The stakes involved in this investigation are undeniably significant, with far-reaching implications that extend beyond mere monetary value. At the heart of this inquiry lies the substantial volume of USDT—Tether, a cryptocurrency renowned for its close ties to the stability of the US dollar—flowing through Garantex.

This Moscow-based exchange has evidently served as a hotspot for a myriad of illicit cryptocurrency transactions, despite bearing the conspicuous mark of being sanctioned by both the United States and the United Kingdom.

Engaged in a game of cat-and-mouse.

Garantex has been in the spotlight ever since its inception in 2019 in Estonia. However, the story has evolved significantly since then. Presently, Garantex seems to have firmly established its operations in the heart of Moscow’s Federation Tower. Estonia bid farewell to Garantex in February 2022, around the time when the United States and the United Kingdom were intensifying their sanctions efforts.

The U.S. Treasury Department isn’t taking this lightly. It has trained its focus on Garantex, identifying it as a hub for illicit activities, particularly favored by nefarious entities such as the Russia-based ransomware group Conti. Allegedly, these actors conducted illicit operations amounting to over $100 million under Garantex’s oversight. Compounding the issue, Garantex was allegedly cozying up to sanctioned Russian banks and devising strategies to maintain access to the U.S. dollar despite the imposed sanctions.

This development poses significant concerns, especially considering the implications of Garantex’s actions and its potential role in facilitating illicit financial activities.

Crypto, a Double-Edged Blade

Tether, the central figure in this crypto saga, reigns over a colossal fortune exceeding $100 billion, akin to a suave secret agent navigating the murky waters of the digital realm.

Tether Holdings asserts its iron grip over every transaction, positioning itself as the guardian of law and order in the crypto domain. They tout their collaboration with law enforcement, projecting an image of invincibility against criminal elements.

However, the reality paints a different picture. Despite Tether’s claims, it remains a favored tool for illicit activities among criminals. From elaborate online scams to clandestine cross-border transactions, Tether serves as the currency of choice for nefarious deeds. Despite Tether Holdings’ efforts to clamp down on illicit transactions and freeze assets associated with unlawful activities, the staggering volume of $19.3 billion in shady dealings speaks volumes.

Thus, Tether’s assertion of complete control appears dubious in light of the persisting challenges posed by illicit crypto transactions.

On another front, the United States and the United Kingdom have found themselves aligned once again, united in their pursuit of a common adversary. The unfolding developments in this ongoing saga promise to be intriguing, with the outcome yet to be revealed.


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