OFAC Blacklists Three Russians’ Crypto Addresses Linked to 2016 US Presidential Election

The Treasury Department of Foreign Assets Control, OFAC in short, announced sanctions for three Russian hackers involved in meddling in the 2016 Presidential elections. The statement further added cryptocurrency addresses attached to the Russian Troll group, Internet Research Agency, were also sanctioned.

The sanctions stretch to several crypto addresses, including Bitcoin (BTC), Ether (ETH), Litecoin (LTC), Zcash (ZEC), and Bitcoin SV (BSV). As of the publishing of the sanctions, “all property and interests in property of these targets that are subject to U.S. jurisdictions are blocked,” the statement adds. U.S. citizens are also prohibited from engaging in transactions with the listed persons.

The three sanctioned persons – Artem Lifshits, Anton Andreyev, and Darya Aslanova – are listed for controlling the crypto wallet accounts and dealing with the IRA. The statement reads,

“Russian nationals Artem Lifshits, Anton Andreyev, and Darya Aslanova, as employees of the IRA, supported the IRA’s cryptocurrency accounts. The IRA uses cryptocurrency to fund activities in furtherance of their ongoing malign influence operations around the world.”

OFAC first listed IRA operations using cryptocurrency in 2018, accusing the firm of participating in meddling in the 2016 U.S. Presidential election.

Russia is not the only nation the U.S. agency is focusing on. In November 2019, BEG reported OFAC was accelerating its efforts to sanction cryptocurrency addresses from two Iran nationals in relation to ransomware attacks within the country.

The list of Russian cryptocurrency addresses that have been blacklisted by the U.S. Treasury Department.

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Author: Lujan Odera

U.S Senate Sanctions Following the Hong Kong Security Law Could Affect Crypto Brokerages

The U.S Senate sanctions that were passed in response to the Hong Kong security law might affect crypto brokerage operations.

Dubbed the ‘Hong Kong Autonomy Act,’ this senate bill aims to reprimand China for eroding the city’s autonomy, which had long favored its position as a financial hub. According to the new security law, Hong Kong’s freedom of expression has been infringed to the extent of not being allowed to criticize the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

With the U.S acting as the leader of the free world, a counter move on this infringement was to be expected. Now that the Senate has already given the green light; the U.S government can now move to limit its foreign registered subsidiaries in Hong Kong from providing access to the dollar ecosystem. These limitations will be in situations where the other party is undermining Hong Kong’s autonomy. However, the bill did not specify what criteria would be used to arrive at such decisions, leaving this to the U.S Treasury.

The Effect on Crypto Brokerages

These moves by the U.S senate and CCP could have a significant toll on crypto brokerages operating in Hong Kong. The city has long been a link between mainland China crypto businesses and international markets, given its friendly nature towards digital assets. This link has since motivated mainland China-based crypto exchanges such as Huobi and OKCoin to set up in Hong Kong.

While their operations are majorly in Asia, access to the dollar ecosystem is fundamental for liquidity and other aspects. According to the president of Hong Kong’s Bitcoin Association, Leo Weese, a move to curtail liquidity provision would be catastrophic for the Hong Kong-based exchanges:

“The most successful cryptocurrency companies here are dependent on their access to the U.S. dollar system … They move money around, they are big brokers, and if they somewhat lose that access, they are in trouble.”

Weese’s sentiments were seconded by other stakeholders in this market, including Genesis Block’s chief trader, Charles Yang, who noted that reliance on U.S banks for dollar settlements is inevitable. Consequently, the ongoing friction puts their business at more risk.

“If there is any further friction from the U.S. policy, it could be very damaging to our business.”

Hong Kong’s Financial Dominance in Limbo

While the new security law doesn’t intend to change Hong Kong’s financial status, this could quickly change, according to Weese.

“I think for now there is no intention to mess with Hong Kong’s financial system and scare companies away, but of course things could quickly change.”

As both the CCP and U.S continue to fine-tune their stance on this development, a move to Beijing as China’s financial hub will mean more scrutiny by the government. This might, in turn, make wire transfers and other financial services expensive and slower compared to the autonomy that preceded business in Hong Kong.

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Author: Edwin Munyui

Venezuelan President Pushes for Petro Crypto Adoption with Latest Govt. Fund Allocations

In an effort to dig out the country from the deep hole of hyperinflation, sovereign debt and sanctions from other economies, President Nicolas Maduro, Venezuela’s leader, is set to implement an aggressive strategy focused on its national cryptocurrency – Petro.

Government projects to be funded using Petro

In a state address on Tuesday night, Maduro urged the country to embrace the use of its Petro cryptocurrency urging the populous to switch from the growing dependence on US Dollars. Maduro will set up government developmental funds – denominated in petro and euros – in a bid to spark economic growth in the country.

In the address, Maduro promised each state and protectorate a total of 1 million petros twice a month to spark the use of the national crypto in the government. The protectorate and state governments will have the free will to spend the amount in development projects in their areas. To explain the magnitude of the announcement he said,

“In concrete terms, this means, my compatriots, which we are assigning between 1,354,000 euros and 3,249,600 euros to governors and protectorates.”

While most of the Petro stash is expected to be distributed to the state governments, the national government projects will also receive part of the funds.

The telecommunications department will receive 4 million petros; 1 million petros to spark agricultural development, 600,000+ petros for inputs and machinery and a further 9 million petros for road construction. The country also holds a joint fund with China to which $2 million USD worth of petro will be stashed.

Venezuela embraces crypto adoption

In August, the head of digital asset activities within the Venezuelan government urged the citizens to embrace the use of Petro for their everyday needs. Joselit Ramírez, asked Venezuelans to use the government sponsored, Patna Remesa platform to make global remittances and international payments using the cryptocurrency.

Furthermore, government backed exchange, CriptoLAGO, announced the launch of crypto debit cards in the country offering users a gateway to easily purchase and use Bitcoin, Litecoin, Dash and Petro in daily activities.

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Author: Lujan Odera