US govt sanctioned a Russian woman for laundering virtual currency on behalf of threat actors

Pierluigi Paganini November 05, 2023

The Treasury Department sanctioned a Russian woman accused of laundering virtual currency on behalf of cybercriminals.

The Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) on Friday sanctioned Ekaterina Zhdanova, a Russian national, for her role in laundering and managing virtual currency on behalf of Russian elites, ransomware operators, and other threat actors.

“Through key facilitators like Zhdanova, Russian elites, ransomware groups, and other illicit actors sought to evade U.S. and international sanctions, particularly through the abuse of virtual currency,” said Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Brian E. Nelson. “We remain focused on safeguarding the U.S. and international financial system against those who seek to exploit this technology, among other illicit finance risks in the virtual assets ecosystem.”

Zhdanova also helped Russians to evade sanctions imposed on Russia after the invasion of Ukraine, including an unnamed oligarch. Zhdanova moved $100 million to the United Arab Emirates, on behalf of the Russian oligarch.

According to the Department of the Treasury’s OFAC, Ekaterina Zhdanova in March 2022 assisted a Russian client in obfuscating their source of wealth in order to transfer over $2.3 million in Western Europe through a fraudulently opened investment account and real estate purchases. 

Zhdanova also supported individuals connected with the Russian Ryuk ransomware gang. In 2021, she laundered over $2.3 million on behalf of a Ryuk ransomware affiliate that obtained the funds from victim payments.

“As a result of today’s action, all property and interests in property of the designated person described above that are in the United States or in the possession or control of U.S. persons are blocked and must be reported to OFAC. In addition, any entities that are owned, directly or indirectly, individually or in the aggregate, 50 percent or more by one or more blocked persons are also blocked. Unless authorized by a general or specific license issued by OFAC, or exempt, OFAC’s regulations generally prohibit all transactions by U.S. persons or within (or transiting) the United States that involve any property or interests in property of designated or otherwise blocked person.” concludes the press release by the Treasury Department. In addition, financial institutions and other persons that engage in certain transactions or activities with the sanctioned entities and individuals may expose themselves to sanctions or be subject to an enforcement action.

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Pierluigi Paganini

(SecurityAffairs – hacking, virtual currency)

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