March 23, 2023

The Moscow-City Laundromat


The Moscow-City Laundromat
Moscow-City in February fog  Gennady Grachev, Around Moscow, Wikimedia Commons 

Transparency International Russia, a well-regarded anti-corruption NGO, discovered that several crypto exchanges that are operating in Moscow-City, the main commercial district of Russian capital, are offering services for withdrawing funds from Russia to the UK anonymously. 

Investigators conducted a series of undercover interviews and established that at least eight crypto exchangers are ready to exchange USDT stablecoins for pounds sterling with the opportunity to receive them in cash in London. One of these exchanges, Suex was sanctioned by the US for money laundering back in 2021. 

According to Transparency International Russia (TI), the process of making a transfer is quite simple and is similar for all crypto exchangers. They deposit client funds in a specified crypto wallet, after which the crypto exchange operator assigns the time and date of a courier delivery to the specified address in London.

Not a single crypto exchange requests an identity document from customers. This directly violates the British anti-money-laundering legislation. "This presents a significant money laundering risk and is illustrative of how the financial system is open to exploitation by criminals and corrupt officials looking to launder their ill-gotten gains," investigators note.

This is not the only TI investigation into money laundering in Russia. Previously, TI found a money-laundering scheme being run by Gazprom, Russia's state-owned gas giant, and they also published a podcast on money-laundering via real estate. 

Therefore, it is not surprising that Russian authorities have targeted the anti-corruption organization: recently TI, an NGO that has headquarters in Berlin, was recognized as an "undesirable organization" in Russia, and its employees were banned from working in Russia under threat of criminal prosecution. Because of this, TI Russia, the Moscow based NGO, which previously was included in the register of "foreign agents," was forced to shutter its legal entity.

 

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