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Treasury Fines Crypto Exchange Bittrex $53 Million for Sanctions Violations

Bittrex violated multiple sanctions programs and failed to adequately guard against money laundering, according to the Treasury Department.

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Bittrex is a popular crypto exchange. Image: Shutterstock

The U.S. government has hit digital asset exchange Bittrex with fines of $53 million—the biggest fine on a crypto business by the Treasury Department to date. 

The Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) and Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) said Tuesday that the U.S. exchange would have to pay two fines to the government entities of over $24 million and $29 million, respectively, for “apparent violations” of multiple U.S. sanctions programs. 

Bittrex, which is based in Bellevue, Washington, “unnecessarily exposed the U.S. financial system to threat actors,” according to the authorities. 

This is because the exchange allegedly allowed people from the Crimea region of Ukraine, Cuba, Iran, Sudan, and Syria to make crypto transactions of over $263 million between March 2014 and December 2017, the statement said. 

It also failed to have a proper anti-money laundering program, it added, and therefore had “significant exposure to illicit finance.”

“When virtual currency firms fail to implement effective sanctions compliance controls, including screening customers located in sanctioned jurisdictions, they can become a vehicle for illicit actors that threaten U.S national security,” OFAC Director Andrea Gacki said in Tuesday’s statement. 

FinCEN Acting Director Himamauli Das added that “Bittrex’s AML [anti-money laundering] program and SAR [suspicious activity reports] reporting failures” exposed the U.S. financial system to threat actors for years.

The Treasury Department is trying to crack down on crypto crime. Just last month, the body banned U.S. citizens from using Tornado Cash—a popular “coin mixing” app that makes Ethereum transactions anonymous.

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