US Sanctions First Crypto Exchange For Alleged Ransomware Ties

The US government has moved to blacklist a Russian crypto exchange in what seems to be the first time the…

Hammer on Bitcoin

The US government has moved to blacklist a Russian crypto exchange in what seems to be the first time the government is taking such an action against a crypto exchange;

  • The US Treasury Department has announced sanctions against a crypto exchange named Suex for allegations of facilitating transactions for ransomware operators based in Russia. The department therein claims that over 40% of Suex’s known transaction history was associated with illicit and criminal operations.
The US has faced a wave of ransomware attacks over the past year with victims including a major oil pipeline company (Colonial Pipeline) that paid a $5mn ransom and a major food supplier (JBS) that paid an $11mn ransom. Both attacks are suspected to have been carried out by Russian criminal groups, making it a major point of concern that US President Joe Biden pressed Putin to address in a July phone call;
  • Out of many, the most infamous ransomware group globally appears to be a Russian organization named Evil Corp that’s alleged to have made over $100mn from ransomware payments and bank fraud, a figure that implies much notoriety. The recent attack on food supplier JBS was attributed to the organization by the American FBI. 
Given America’s suspicions of Russian cybercriminals fueling the wave of ransomware attacks, it’s not surprising that the first crypto exchange to be sanctioned by the government is one from Russia. The sanctioned exchange called Suex seems to be an obscure crypto exchange without much known about its operations and the people behind it;
  • As advertised on its bare IP website, Suex seems to require an in-person office visit to process transactions, quite unusual for crypto exchanges. It doesn’t seem to have an exchange of its own but rather relies on external crypto exchanges to facilitate transactions on behalf of clients, providing obscurity in the process.
Screenshot from the Suex website.
  • According to public corporate documents, Suex’s shareholders are Vasilii Zhabykin, a Russian, and Tibor Bokor, a citizen of the Czech Republic who was notably detained this May in the country in connection with a large fraud case.
The sanctions against Suex imply that companies that transact with it risk penalties from the US government, especially companies of American jurisdiction. It’s the usual way adopted by the government when attempting to cripple targeted companies it has no direct jurisdiction over.
  • The US Treasury identified a total of 25 bitcoin, ethereum, and tether addresses known to be controlled by Suex on its sanctions list, addresses that American companies are now barred from transacting with. Altogether, the addresses have processed over $900mn in transactions, public blockchain data shows.

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