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Despite US Sanctions, Tether Continues To Support Tornado Cash: Report

The stablecoin issuer has yet to receive a request to freeze Tornado Cash-affiliated accounts, but hinted it would comply if it did.

3 min read
Tether. Image: Shutterstock

The world’s largest stablecoin issuer, Tether, may not be complying with the U.S. Treasury Department’s sanctions against crypto transaction privacy mixer Tornado Cash, according to a report today from the Washington Post

The publication cites analysis of data from crypto intelligence firm Dune Analytics to state that the Hong Kong-based Tether has not blacklisted any accounts associated with Tornado Cash. 

Tether’s Chief Technology Officer, Paolo Ardoino, told the publication that Tether has yet to be approached by U.S. officials or law enforcement with a request to freeze transactions with Tornado Cash. 

He added that Tether “normally complies with requests from U.S. authorities” and considers U.S. Treasury Department sanctions “as part of its world-class compliance program.”

A Tether spoksperson told Decrypt, “So far, OFAC has not indicated that a stablecoin issuer is expected to freeze secondary market addresses that are published on OFAC’s SDN List or that are operated by persons and entities that have been sanctioned by OFAC. Further, no US law enforcement agency or regulator has made such a request despite our near daily contact with US law enforcement whose requests always provide precise details.”

Tornado Cash reaps the whirlwind

Earlier this month, the U.S. Treasury Department announced sanctions against Tornado Cash, stating that had taken the measures because criminals had used the privacy mixer “to launder more than $7 billion worth of virtual currency since its creation in 2019.” 

While $7 billion is roughly the total amount of funds that have passed through the privacy tool, according to blockchain data by Elliptic, just $1.5 billion was illegally obtained.

Many in the U.S. and beyond have opposed the sanctions. Digital rights activist group the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) said it was “deeply concerned,” while crypto policy non-profit Coin Center said it was “exploring a court challenge.” 

Jesse Powell, CEO of crypto exchange Kraken, last week joined the chorus of voices calling the sanctions “unconstitutional.”

The Dutch crackdown

Five days after the U.S. announced sanctions on Tornado Cash, the Netherlands’ Fiscal Information and Investigation Service (FIOD) announced it had arrested a “suspected” Tornado Cash developer. Crypto fans and privacy advocates decried the arrest as a declaration of war on coders.

While the move may seem related to the U.S. sanctions, the FIOD stressed that it has been working under the direction of the Dutch Prosecutor's Office, but has not coordinated with the U.S. government and did not make the arrest due to the Treasury’s blacklisting of the mixer.

The non-profit DeFi Education Fund reached out to the FIOD with questions about the arrest. The enforcement agency declined to verify whether the accused is 29-year-old Alexey Pertsev, but said that coding "may be punishable" if a developer writes code “for the sole purpose of committing criminal acts.”

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