Several cryptocurrency platforms operating in the Moscow City office center provide anonymous transfer services abroad, including to the UK. This is stated in report organization Transparency International Russia.
According to experts, Moscow City hosts 21 cryptocurrency companies. 14 of them are OTC brokers that exchange cash rubles for USDT. Eight platforms exchange stablecoin for pounds sterling with the possibility of receiving cash in London.
The latter include the Suex cryptocurrency exchange, which was sanctioned by the US in September 2021 due to ties to ransomware developers. Despite the fact that the Suex website is down, the company’s Telegram chat operators still carry out exchange transactions, the researchers say.
They managed to get the wallet addresses of three of the eight crypto exchanges that make transfers to the UK – Pridechange, Alfa.exchange and 24ExPay. After analyzing them, the experts found that from the moment of creation until December 14, 2022, on average, from $420,000 to $470,000 passed through one address every month.
Transparency International emphasized that they only evaluated wallets with USDT on the Tron network, since the received addresses in Ethereum had a balance of zero or close to zero. In addition, each exchanger uses several wallets, so the real amount of transfers can be much higher.
Approximately 21% of Pridechange’s outgoing payments went to addresses associated with US-sanctioned exchange Garantex, also based in Moscow City, according to Elliptic, an analytics tool.
“When we discussed transferring funds, we were talking about amounts in excess of $15,000 and it was not a problem for the exchangers to provide this money in cash in the UK on the same day. Based on the available evidence, significant amounts of funds can flow abroad monthly with a minimum amount AML-inspections, if any, are carried out at all,” Transparency International experts noted.
They added that there are several unregistered crypto exchanges operating in the UK, which, bypassing the law, cash out cryptocurrencies.
“The fact that customers can send cash anonymously from a country with so little control leaves the financial system open to exploitation by criminals and corrupt officials looking to launder their proceeds,” the report says.
Recall that in March 2022, after the ban on foreign exchange transactions in the Russian Federation, the “black” segment of the cryptocurrency market became more active. The turnover of exchangers from Moscow City has increased at least five times since the beginning of the full-scale war in Ukraine. At the same time, the average earnings on transactions increased from 0.1% to at least 1%.
According to Chainalysis, several dozen Moscow-City cryptocurrency firms are linked to money laundering by cybercriminals.
In February 2023, Sber recorded record volumes of illegal asset transfers to foreign cryptocurrency wallets using Russian bitcoin exchanges.
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