Treasury official acknowledges most crypto transactions are 'legitimate' but still anticipates additional sanctions


Wally Adeyemo, the Deputy Secretary of the U.S. Department of the Treasury, said the department would likely be enforcing more sanctions on companies involved in illicit transactions related to ransomware payments.

Speaking at an online event hosted by the Center for a New American Security with former Treasury Secretary Jack Lew and Ambassador Paula Dobriansky, Adeyemo said the U.S. government would likely be dipping into its toolbox by employing sanctions when criminals threaten national security interests. He specifically mentioned “crypto exchanges or mixers that are fundamentally in the business of furthering cybercriminals” as possible targets.

“Our view is that the vast majority of digital assets are being used for legitimate purposes, but for those that are primarily in the business of furthering criminal enterprises, we plan to use our tools to go after them,” said Adeyemo. “We also have to admit to ourselves that ultimately the growth of digital assets is a challenge that we have to address when it comes to our sanction regimes.”

Adeyemo added any investigations into illicit crypto sanctions would include collaboration with the FBI, the intelligence community, and other agencies. His comments come following an Oct. 18 report saying the department needed to do more to develop its infrastructure and policies in regards to digital assets, as they were hampering the implementation of sanctions while balancing funds from legitimate humanitarian organizations. The report suggested the U.S. Treasury should modernize to include the “right expertise, technology, and staff” to tackle digital assets.

Related: Rogue states dodge economic sanctions, but is crypto in the wrong?

The government department has been employing sanctions as part of the United States’ efforts to fight ransomware attacks threatening the country’s infrastructure, such as when Russia-based DarkSide hackers attacked the Colonial Pipeline system in May. Last month, the department announced it would impose sanctions on the Czech Republic as well as Russia-based business Suex OTC for allegedly allowing hackers to access cryptocurrency sent as payment for ransomware attacks.


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