A group of Russian military intelligence officers indicted Friday as part of an ongoing investigation into interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election allegedly used bitcoin to fund their operations.
In the just-released indictment, prosecutors assert that the 12 named intelligence officers hacked computer networks and email accounts owned and used by the U.S. Democratic Party, including the presidential campaign of Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.
The details were included under a charge of conspiracy to launder money. According to the indictment, the defendants "conspired to launder the equivalent of $95,000 through a web of transactions structured to capitalize on the perceived anonymity of cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin."
"In an effort to pay for their efforts around the world ... the defendants paid for it with cryptocurrency," deputy U.S. Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said during a press briefing.
While the defendants allegedly used other currencies, including the U.S. dollar, "they principally used bitcoin when purchasing servers, registering domains, and otherwise making payments in furtherance of hacking activity."
Payments are said to have been made to companies in the U.S., with some of those funds being traced to a bitcoin mining operation.
The indictment explains:
The defendants allegedly used multiple "dedicated email accounts" to both track bitcoin transaction information and facilitate payments, the release added. Further, the indicted officials transferred bitcoin using the same computers that they used in hacking various email accounts
The indictment is the latest to come out of the ongoing – and politically explosive – investigation into Russian election meddling and the possible involvement of members of the presidential campaign of U.S. President Donald Trump.
Robert Mueller, a former Federal Bureau of Investigation director, was appointed in May 2017 to lead the special counsel investigation, which has drawn the ire of Trump, who has vehemently denied any collusion on election meddling.
Rod Rosenstein image via Shutterstock
The leader in news and information on cryptocurrency, digital assets and the future of money, CoinDesk is a media outlet that strives for the highest journalistic standards and abides by a strict set of editorial policies. CoinDesk is an independent operating subsidiary of Digital Currency Group, which invests in cryptocurrencies and blockchain startups. As part of their compensation, certain CoinDesk employees, including editorial employees, may receive exposure to DCG equity in the form of stock appreciation rights, which vest over a multi-year period. CoinDesk journalists are not allowed to purchase stock outright in DCG.