OFAC sanctions two pro-Kremlin supporters with Garantex ties


OFAC has sanctioned two Russians involved in a pro-Kremlin influence campaign, while Chainalysis found that at least one of them received funds from crypto exchange Garantex.

The Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) has imposed sanctions against two Russian individuals for services “they provided the Government of the Russian Federation (GoR) in connection with a foreign malign influence campaign, including attempting to impersonate legitimate media outlets.”

In a press release on Mar. 20, OFAC revealed sanctions against Ilya Andreevich Gambashidze and Nikolai Aleksandrovich Tupikin, associated with Social Design Agency (SDA) and Company Group Structura LLC (Structura) respectively. The U.S. authorities identified both as key actors in a media campaign focused on impersonating legitimate media outlets.

“Specifically, Tupikin and Gambashidze, via SDA and Structura, have implemented, on behalf of GoR, a sprawling network of over 60 websites that impersonated legitimate news organizations, and which used misleading social media accounts to amplify the content of the spoofed websites.”

OFAC

The sanctions imposed by OFAC entail a freezing of all assets and interests belonging to the designated individuals, with financial institutions warned of potential sanctions if they engage with them.


Gambashidze’s on-chain activities | Source: Chainalysis

Following the imposition of sanctions, Chainalysis, a blockchain forensics firm, disclosed that Gambashidze had received more than $200,000 worth of Tether (USDT) on the TRON network, a substantial portion of which came directly from Garantex, a sanctioned Russian crypto exchange. However, it’s unclear whether Gambashidze used the stablecoin for financing the malign influence campaign.

Garantex was previously sanctioned by OFAC in April 2022, with authorities citing its involvement in facilitating transactions associated with illicit actors and darknet markets, including funds from the Russian Ransomware-as-a-Service gang Conti and the now-defunct Hydra darknet marketplace.



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