The U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and crypto investigations company Chainalysis are working with the Ukraine to target Russian oligarchs who may be using crypto to evade sanctions, according to an announcement Thursday.
The IRS Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI) division is supporting Ukrainian investigators by providing blockchain analysis tools. The IRS donated licenses from crypto investigations company Chainalysis to the Ukraine. Approximately 50 Ukrainian law enforcement officers participated in virtual training, with in-person training still to come.
"These trainings help participants hone their digital investigative skills to trace the source of blockchain funds and unmask cryptocurrency transactions with cryptocurrency forensic tools,” IRS-CI Chief Jim Lee said in the announcement. “Sharing tools not only safeguards the U.S. financial system, but the global economy.”
Since Russia's invasion of Ukraine, the countries have used cryptocurrencies to fuel war efforts, evade sanctions and support humanitarian efforts. Evidence indicates that crypto isn't playing a big role in Russia's war effort. Still, U.S. lawmakers remain concerned that Russian oligarchs could be using crypto to circumvent U.S. and European economic sanctions.
“We often see fundraising campaigns conducted with the use of cryptocurrency, as Russia believes in the possibility of circumventing sanctions by using virtual assets," Yurii Vykhodets, police colonel of the Cyber Police Department of the National Police of Ukraine, said. "The training is timely and provides a strong impetus for more effective work by the Cyber Police in this area."
IRS-CI is responsible for conducting financial crime investigations, including tax fraud. Recently, the IRS filed claims worth nearly $44 billion against the estate of bankrupt crypto exchange FTX and its affiliated entities. The U.S. Department of Justice is also conducting an inquiry into whether Binance allowed Russian customers to access the exchange in violation of U.S. sanctions related to Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
Currently, IRS-CI has 23 ongoing sanctions-related investigations.
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