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Binance processed nearly $350 million in bitcoin for Russian ‘money laundering engine’ Bitzlato, report says

Binance CEO Changpeng Zhao

Photo by Pedro Fiúza/NurPhoto via Getty Images

  • Binance processed $346 million for the Bitzlato, the crypto exchange shut down by US authorities, Reuters reported. 
  • The report reviewed blockchain data that showed Binance was the largest bitcoin handler and largest receiver of funds from Bitzlato.
  • Binance has been accused previously of processing crypto tied to illegal activity and having weak money-laundering controls.

Binance reportedly processed $346 million in bitcoin for the Hong Kong-based Bitzlato, the crypto exchange that was shut down by US authorities last week for allegedly being a Russian “money laundering engine.”

According to blockchain data compiled by Chainalysis, Binance processed over 20,000 bitcoin over 205,000 transactions for Bitzlato since 2018. That’s an amount worth $345.8 million at the time the transactions took place, Reuters reported on Tuesday. 

The US Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement network previously noted that Binance was the largest bitcoin handler for the shuttered crypto exchange. Additionally, $175 million was directly transferred from Bitzlato to Binance, which also makes Binance the largest receiver of funds from Bitzlato, Reuters said. $90 million of those transfers were said to have occurred after August 2021, the month Binance implemented identity checks as part of its Anti-Money Laundering program. 

The Justice Department and Treasury Department claimed that Bitzlato laundered over $700 million tied to illicit Russian finances, leading them to shut down the platform and arrest Bitzlato’s founder, a Russian national that reportedly knew the criminal funds were linked to the platform. 

The Treasury noted that two-thirds of Bitzlato’s transactions with top counterparties were related to illegal activity. The Justice Department called the now-defunct crypto exchange a “China-based money laundering engine” involved in a “high-tech axis of cryptocrime,” and doubled-down on its resolve to enforce regulation in the industry. Illicit crypto transactions reached an all-time-high in 2022.

Reuters reported last year that Binance processed $10 billion tied to criminal activity or companies that were trying to evade US sanctions, and reportedly processed $780 million for Hydra, a Russian drug marketplace on the dark web. Binance has refuted the claims. 

Read the original article on Business Insider