The ongoing investigation into Mueller of a possible Russian collusion with the administration of President Donald Trump revealed in two separate charges, issued in July and October, that transaction-based money laundering operations Cryptocurrency-based methods were one of the preferred payment methods by many Russian military intelligence – GRU – officers as they went to buy goods and services in the United States.
The fact that part of this crypto-currency has been extracted or even created by the officials of the GRU in question is something that some experts believe has not received sufficient attention from the official press.
An excerpt from July outlines the extent and sophistication of the GRU company.
"Around March 14, 2016, using the funds in a bitcoin address, the conspirators purchased a VPN account, which they then used to log in to the Twitter @ Guccifer_2 account.The remaining funds from that bitcoin address are were then used on April 28, 2016 to rent a Malaysian server that hosted the dcleaks.com website, the states of accusation.
"The Conspirators used a different set of fictitious names (including" Ward DeClaur "and" Mike Long ") to send bitcoins to a US company to rent a server used to administer the X-Tunnel malware implanted in the Democratic Congress Committee (DCCC) ) and networks of the National Democratic Committee (DNC), and to rent two servers used to hack the DNC cloud network. "
"The incriminated Russian agents in the United States have circumvented the financial transparency regime that surrounds Bitcoin in part by extracting their currencies, and their business has been exposed only very well after the damage occurred. judicial remedies for damage to national security are poor, especially when those who have been convicted are unlikely to face justice, "said David Murray, vice president of product development and services at the Financial Integrity Network in Washington DC . "Our goal must be the almost real-time interdiction of threats to national security and our financial transparency regime must support that goal, whether those who threaten our national security choose to transact through banks or using currencies virtual. "
In the July 2018 indictment, it was re-revealed that "although the conspirators caused transactions in a variety of currencies, including US dollars, they mainly used bitcoins by buying servers, registering domains and otherwise making payments to support the 39. Hacking activities .. Many of these payments have been processed by companies based in the United States that have provided payment processing services to hosting companies, domain registrars and other international and national suppliers. Bitcoin has allowed the conspirators to avoid direct relations with traditional financial institutions, allowing them to escape a more in-depth control of their identities and sources of funding. "
For better coverage of their tracks, for example, "the domain dcleaks.com has been registered and paid for using the fictitious name" Carrie Feehan "and an address in New York, in some cases as part of the process of payment, the Conspirators have provided sellers with nonsensical addresses such as "use Denver AZ", "gfhgh ghfhgfh fdgfdg WA" and "1 2 dwd District of Columbia. Conspirators used several dedicated email accounts to track basic information about bitcoin transactions and to facilitate bitcoin payments to suppliers. One of these dedicated accounts, registered with the username "gfadel47", received hundreds of bitcoin payment requests from about 100 different email accounts. "
The GRU officials even seemed to defeat the blockchain checks and balances system by reworking transactional sequences. This part of the imputation illustrates how it was done.
"For example, as of February 1, 2016, the gfadel47 account has received an education for"[p]Lease will send exactly 0.026043 bitcoins to a certain thirty-four character bitcoin address. Shortly thereafter, a Blockchain added a transaction that matched those exact instructions. "
Bitcoin mining was an important and large supporting element in this criminal enterprise, and this activity and "was used, for example, to pay a Romanian company to register the dcleaks.com domain through a company processing payments located in the United States. "
Bitcoins were purchased through peer-to-peer exchanges, "moving funds through other digital currencies and using prepaid cards." The bitcoin mining operation that funded the registration payment for dcleaks.com also sent new bitcoins. issue to a bitcoin address controlled by "Daniel Farell", the character that was used to renew the linuxkrnl.net domain.The bitcoin mining operation also financed, through the same bitcoin address, the purchase of servers and domains used in GRU spear-phishing operations, including accounts-qooqle.com and account-gooogle.com. "
The aforementioned extracts from the July indictment are strictly duplicated even if they are not exactly reflected in the October indictment which focuses on the role of the bitcoin even in the alleged money laundering operations of the GRU officers.
"The success of anti-money laundering regimes is often measured in the way they support criminal prosecutions and asset confiscation, which are important goals, but countries are gaining a lot more from their financial transparency schemes. recognizing the full usefulness of financial transparency, "said Murray. "As a result, the goal of the global financial transparency regime is evolving, trying to keep illicit activities out of the international financial system and to prevent damage as well as positioning governments to prosecute those who do harm." .
Timing is everything, and coincidentally, several European banks and financial institutions are now being examined for the lack of adequate supervision of large amounts of cryptocurrency with its origins in Russia. So far, there seems to be no connection with the Mueller investigation, but given the huge amounts of cryptocurrency involved and the relatively routine nature of the money laundering that has been accomplished, these revelations can not be completely rejected.
According to Bitcoin Insider, Mindaugas Petrauskas, director of the Financial Crime Investigation Service (FCIS) of Lithuania, is overseeing an intensive investigation involving transactions of over 600 million euros involving dozens of private individuals and corporate entities. The banks and financial service providers identified so far include Swedbank, Danske Bank and Citadele, to name just three.
"The question arises as to where it comes from, which is a lot of money," Petrauskas said.
In addition to Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, they are also carrying out important money laundering probes. In September, the Wall Street Journal reported that Danske Bank, the largest Danish bank, had initiated an internal money laundering investigation that involved a total of $ 150 billion in the Estonian branch between 2007 and 2015. The WSJ reported that much of this suspicious activity concerned accounts linked to people in Russia who habitually used the shell companies.
This money laundering scandal spread like a fire all over Europe in 2018 and negatively affected both the perception and the reputation of the global crypto-currency sector as a whole. Danske Bank could be one of the biggest players involved in this scandal, but it is not alone.
"It is not clear what the consequences could be as the volume of this case is much larger than anyone could have imagined," Christian Thatje, a stockbroker from Sydbank A / S, told Bloomberg in July. " case brings a lot of uncertainty and investors do not like it ".
"As governments increasingly look at their financial transparency schemes to prevent damage, regulators' expectations for compliance with anti-money laundering and sanctions will increase and the exposure of financial institutions to reputational risk will increase because game is much higher, "said Murray.
Meanwhile, Mueller and his team will wait in empty courtrooms because the odds that any of the named GRU officers appear there are very poor.