A new indictment by the US Department of Justice charges seven alleged Russian intelligence agents using cryptocurrencies as part of a broad "flu and disinformation" plan.
The government claims that Aleksei Sergeyevich Morenets, Evgenii Mikhaylovich Serebriakov, Ivan Sergeyevich Yermakov, Artem Andreveyich Malyshev, Dmitriy Sergeyevich Badin, Oleg Mikhaylovich Sotnikov and Alexey Valerevich Minin are members of the Russian intelligence agency and hacked into the computer networks used by the anti-doping and sports officials, as well as groups investigating the alleged use of chemical weapons by Russia.
To hide their financial traces, they used cryptocurrencies, however, in the indictment, the bitcoin is the only one called directly.
The document states:
"In those cases where the conspirators were acquiring hacking infrastructure, payments were made using a complex network of transactions that involved operational accounts in fictitious names and typically used cryptocurrencies, like Bitcoin, to further mask their identities and conduct."
Also, while the conspirators were using a variety of currencies, including US dollars, bitcoin was the main form of payment for purchases including purchase servers and domain registration, according to US officials.
Many of these payments went to companies based in the United States, and "the use of bitcoins allowed the conspirators to avoid direct relations with traditional financial institutions, allowing them to escape a more thorough check of their identities and sources of financing ".
The conspirators also extracted their bitcoins as part of an effort to raise funds, according to the prosecution. He adds:
"To facilitate the purchase of infrastructure used in their hacking activities – targeting anti-doping and other organizations linked to sport and the release of stolen documents – the defendants … along with known and unknown conspirators, have conspired to recycle money through a network of structured transactions capitalize on the perceived anonymity of cryptocurrencies like bitcoins. "
"The use of bitcoins allowed conspirators to avoid direct relations with traditional financial institutions, allowing them to evade more control over their identities and sources of funding," he said.
That said, the indictment indicates that investigators were able to track down the machines used to start bitcoin transactions, noting that the defendants sent bitcoin payments from the same computers used to conduct some "hacking" activities.
Although not directly connected to ongoing investigations into suspected Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential election, John Demers, Assistant Attorney General for the DOJ's National Security Division, said during a press conference that three of the defendants were previously charged with precedence of that probe. At the time, the defendants named were accused of using cryptocurrencies to finance and facilitate their alleged efforts.
The full charge can be read below:
DOJ GRU Indictment of CoinDesk on Scribd
Image of the Department of Justice announcement via the DOJ website