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The U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), on August 8, 2022, sanctioned virtual currency mixer Tornado Cash. OFAC alleged that it had been “used to launder more than $7 billion worth of virtual currency since its creation in 2019 [, including] over $455 million stolen by the Lazarus Group[,]” a Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) state-sponsored hacking group that OFAC identified for sanctions in 2019, in what the agency characterized as the largest known virtual currency heist to date.[1]

Continue Reading OFAC Takes Action Against Virtual Currency Tornado Cash in Novel Application of Sanctions Authorities

On October 15, 2021, the U.S. Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) released guidance on sanctions compliance for the digital currency industry, the agency’s most detailed statement to date on its expectations for participants in this rapidly growing industry. This guidance expands on the five pillars of OFAC’s 2019 Framework by

Agency’s Focus on Cryptocurrency and Blockchain Continues

On September 21, 2021, the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) released an updated advisory to “highlight the sanctions risks associated with ransomware payments”—almost one year after issuing the first such guidance—and simultaneously imposed sanctions on SUEX, a virtual currency exchange accused

The Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) administers and enforces U.S. economic sanctions programs in accordance with U.S. national security and foreign policy. OFAC had not previously published guidance addressing essential elements for an effective sanctions compliance program (SCP). It has now done so.

Specifically, on May 2, 2019, OFAC published guidance entitled “A Framework

On November 28, 2018, the U.S. Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), announced an action against two Iranian citizens, Ali Khorashadizadeh and Mohammad Ghorbaniyan, who facilitated the exchange of bitcoin ransom payments on behalf of Iranian malicious cyber actors.  This client update provides an overview of the OFAC action and identifies certain key issues raised by OFAC’s addition of digital currency addresses as associated information for the listings of Khorashadizadeh and Ghorbaniyan on the OFAC Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons List (SDN list).

Continue Reading Treasury Identifies Iranian Nationals and Their Digital Currency Addresses Used to Facilitate Ransomware Attacks

On October 11, 2018, the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) released an advisory (the Advisory) intended to help money services businesses (MSBs) and foreign financial institutions better understand how U.S. sanctions on Iran affect their compliance obligations under the Anti-Money Laundering/Combating the Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) rules and under the U.S.-Iran sanctions enforced by the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Asset Controls (OFAC).[1]

While Iran has historically relied upon, among other things, precious metals, such as gold, to evade sanctions and to market Iranian goods abroad, FinCEN views virtual currency as another commodity that Iranians may rely on to avoid sanctions.  Since 2013, Iranians have participated in more than $3.8 million in bitcoin-denominated transactions annually.  As a result, companies subject to U.S. regulation that participate in the virtual currency markets should pay careful attention to the Advisory.

To confirm the importance of the Advisory, OFAC separately issued the Advisory to all persons who subscribe to OFAC updates and listed the Advisory on its website.  This, together with the discussion of OFAC obligations within the Advisory, demonstrates that FinCEN and OFAC may cooperate on enforcement of these obligations.  As a reminder, U.S. sanctions prohibit U.S. persons and U.S.-owned or -controlled foreign entities from entering into transactions involving Iran, the Government of Iran, or Iranian financial institutions.[2]

Continue Reading FinCEN Advisory Emphasizes Importance of U.S.-Iran Sanctions and AML/CFT Compliance for Virtual Currency Businesses

On January 19, 2018, the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), in response to a question, warned that a U.S. person’s acquisition of, or dealing in, a cryptocurrency that Venezuela intends to issue in the future may violate OFAC sanctions.  In an effort to refinance the country’s soaring debt, the President of Venezuela, Nicolás