European Central Bank president Christine Lagarde also said this week that Russians were using digital assets to shirk sanctions.
The founder of Ukraine-based crypto exchange Kuna, and the manager of Crypto Fund of Ukraine Michael Chobanian is suggesting Binance needs to be investigated for potential collusion with Russia over sanctions.
In comments reported by CoinDesk on Thursday, Chobanian asked the European Union to take that step to determine whether indeed the leading crypto exchange had “cooperated” with Russia to help Putin’s government evade sanctions.
Chobanian, also the head of Blockchain Association of Ukraine, told the publication that he would apologise if investigations proved Binance had done no wrong. But he added that if it’s confirmed, then the EU would need to handle it.
The accusations surfaced last week, with Binance moving to refute the Kuna crypto exchange founder’s allegations.
.@KunaExchange founder @ChobanianMike claims Binance has yet to make its promised $10 million donation to Ukraine.
“No one knows where it went,” he says.
He also raises questions around the exchange supporting Russian rubles for transactions: https://t.co/eSA5Qh05sR pic.twitter.com/NdOcCDIAn4
— CoinDesk (@CoinDesk) March 18, 2022
It’s like a “big bank”
Although Chobanian says there is no proof of anything yet, this is what might be happening. He opined that it’s likely Russia is using Binance as a “bank.”
Instead of buying Bitcoin or crypto, those seeking to evade sanctions can just “top up” their accounts using rubles, convert that into US dollars and comfortably withdraw the money in a different country.
It could happen even without crypto changing hands, he said. “It is fiat transaction in, fiat transaction out,” he told CoinDesk.
The allegations are in line with some concerns from authorities that Russian oligarchs could turn to crypto to circumvent sanctions. Many industry experts and lawmakers see crypto as being of little help to sanctioned individuals and the Russian government.
However, some regulators and leaders say it’s possible. This week, the European Central Bank (ECB) president Christine Lagarde warned that Russia was using crypto to dodge sanctions.