Russian companies circumvent sanctions using cryptocurrency

16:22, 03.04.2024

According to an investigation by The Wall Street Journal, Russian companies are utilizing cryptocurrency to procure components for drones and advanced equipment. 

Andrey Zverev, a Russian smuggler, aids Kalashnikov, the largest small arms manufacturer in Russia, in acquiring dual-use goods subjected to US and EU sanctions by transferring millions of dollars through the cryptocurrency Tether to an electronics distributor in Hong Kong, with subsequent delivery to Russia via Central Asian routes to bypass customs control. 

Tether, a stablecoin tied to the US dollar, has emerged as a standard payment method on the global black market due to its elusive nature and US authorities' tracking capabilities, unlike government-issued dollars in traditional banking systems, thereby facilitating illicit activities. 

The Russian cryptocurrency exchange Garantex facilitates this process by enabling ruble-to-Tether conversions, as stated by its founder Igor Mendeleev, suggesting Tether's utility in evading sanctions: "If you're seeking to pay Iranians, you can do so effortlessly with Tether." 

The integration of cryptocurrencies into operations has become integral to bolstering the Russian military-industrial complex, with importers of dual-use goods conducting ruble transfers through intermediaries to Russian bank accounts, converting them into Tether, and remitting local currencies to foreign suppliers in China and the Middle East. 

Brian Nelson, Under Secretary of the US Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, asserts that "Russia increasingly resorts to alternative payment methods to evade US sanctions and sustain its conflict with Ukraine." 

In response, the US Treasury Department urges Congress to enact legislation permitting the blockage of transactions involving USD-denominated stablecoins like Tether. 

The widespread adoption of cryptocurrency represents an increasingly prevalent tactic for Russia to evade sanctions, necessitating novel governmental measures and enhanced tracking methodologies for cryptocurrency transactions.