US authorities seize $ 6.1 million in cryptocurrency from ransomware actors and add Chatex to sanctions list

The US Treasury Department has announced that it will impose sanctions on the Chatex cryptocurrency exchange and its support network for allegedly facilitating transactions with ransomware actors.

In an advisory update released on November 8th, the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) added Chatex, IZIBITS OU, Chatextech SIA and Hightrade Finance to its list of US government sanctioned companies. The department said Chatex has “direct links” with the Czech company Suex OTC, based in the Czech Republic and Russia, which was approved in September.

According to OFAC, Chatex has helped make transactions easier for ransomware groups, with more than half of the exchange’s transactions “resulting from illegal or high-risk activities such as darknet markets, high-risk exchanges and ransomware”. The exchange’s inclusion in the sanctions list takes place after the Latvian and Estonian authorities have ceased business activities of Chatextech and revoked the license of IZIBITS OU.

US authorities seize $ 6.1 million in cryptocurrency from ransomware actors and add Chatex to sanctions list
US authorities seize $ 6.1 million in cryptocurrency from ransomware actors and add Chatex to sanctions list

“Unprincipled virtual currency exchanges like Chatex are critical to the profitability of ransomware activities, especially by laundering and collecting profits for criminals.” said the department. “The Treasury Department will continue to use all available agencies to thwart malicious cyber actors, block illicit criminal profits, and deter further action against the American people.”

In the same announcement, OFAC claimed that the Ukrainian citizen Yaroslav Vasinskyi and the russian Yevgeniy Polyanin participated in ransomware attacks against several US government agencies. as well as against many in the private sector. As part of Treasury Department policies, U.S. citizens are prohibited from doing business with Vasinskyi, Polyanin, Chatex, and any affiliates, or facing enforcement action or penalties.

The State Department announced that it is offering a $ 10 million reward for information leading to the location of people in “key positions” in the Sodinokibi / REvil ransomware group. In addition, a $ 5 million reward is offered which will result in the arrest or conviction of anyone attempting to launch a major ransomware attack.

During a press conference today, the United States Attorney General, Merrick Garland said the Justice Department charged Vasinsky in August with alleged involvement in PC hacking and conspiracy to commit money laundering by demanding payment for the ransomware attacks. According to the Attorney General, Vasinsky was arrested by the Polish authorities in October and is awaiting extradition to the United States. In addition, the Justice Department announced a similar indictment against polyanine after seizing $ 6.1 million in cryptocurrency from 3,000 ransomware attacks for which it was allegedly responsible.

“For the second time in five months, we announced the seizure of digital proceeds from ransomware used by a transnational criminal group,” said Garland. “This won’t be the last time: the US government will continue to aggressively pursue the entire ransomware ecosystem and increase our nation’s resilience to cyber threats.”

Combating ransomware attacks on critical US infrastructure was a major issue under President Joe Biden. In June, a government task force confiscated more than $ 2 million in cryptocurrency used to pay ransom money after an attack on the Colonial Pipeline system.

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