The Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) of the US Treasury Department announced that it would add two Iranian residents, Ali Khorashadizadeh and Mohammad Ghorbaniyan, to its list of Specially Designated Nationals, SDN. This lists individuals, groups and entities, such as terrorists and narcotics traffickers, designated in programs that are not specific to each country and now can include Bitcoin addresses.
In addition, for the first time in the history of the list, the Bitcoin addresses associated with the individuals will be included with other identifying information, such as physical addresses, mailboxes, email addresses and aliases.
The OFAC indicated for the first time that it could add encryption addresses to its list in March, when it will update its “Frequently Asked Questions” on compliance with sanctions. At that time, the office highlighted the fact that cryptocurrencies are comparable to fiduciary currencies with respect to the SDN list. As such, the office is alerting US citizens that they are prohibited from sending funds to both directions.
In a statement, Undersecretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, Sigal Mandelker, said the department “is targeting digital currency exchangers that have allowed Iranian cyber actors to benefit from the extortion of digital rescue payments from their victims. “, Adding:
We are publishing cryptocurrency addresses to identify the illicit actors that operate in the digital currency space. The Treasury Department will aggressively pursue Iran and other dishonest regimes that attempt to exploit the digital currencies and weaknesses of cybernetic safeguards and AML / CFT (anti-money laundering and anti-terrorism financing) to further their nefarious objectives.
Khorashadizadeh and Ghorbaniyan are being added to the Treasury Department list for their role in facilitating financial transactions related to SamSam ransomware. Ransomware has affected more than 200 victims in recent years, including corporations, hospitals, universities and government agencies.
The malicious software kept the data of these organizations hostage in exchange for Bitcoin, according to the Treasury Department.
OFAC believes that Khorashadizadeh and Ghorbaniyan converted more than 7,000 Bitcoin transactions into Iranian rial, processing approximately 6,000 bitcoins, worth millions of US dollars, on behalf of the creators of SamSam. These transactions included bitcoins received as part of the payment of the SamSam victims.
The two allegedly deposited the rial in Iranian banks.
According to OFAC, the two used more than 40 cryptographic exchanges, including some anonymous exchanges based in the United States, to process transactions.
Any individual or exchange that sends funds to these two men may be subject to secondary sanctions, even for having been isolated from the financial system of the United States in full.
“As Iran becomes increasingly isolated and desperate to access US dollars, it is vital that virtual currency exchanges, peer exchanges and other digital currency service providers reinforce their networks against these illicit schemes,” he said. Mandelker