Bittrex Hit With $29 Million Penalty For Sanctions Violations

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  • Bittrex has been hit with a dual penalty for multiple instances of sanctions violations
  • The exchange was accused of allowing people in sanctioned regions to use the platform between 2014 and 2017
  • The two fines have been bundled into one fine of around $29 million

Cryptocurrency exchange Bittrex has been hit with a $29 million penalty for sanctions violations. The exchange, based in Bellevue, Washington, was accused by The U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) and Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) of “apparent violations of multiple sanctions programs” among other offences, with two fines levied, one of which is transferable. Bittrex was a popular exchange between 2014 and 2017, but its popularity dropped after the 2017 market cycle.

Bittrex Allowed Users From Sanctioned Countries to Trade

Bittrex was accused of numerous infractions regarding sanctions programs alongside “willful violations of the Bank Secrecy Act’s (BSA’s) anti-money laundering (AML) and suspicious activity report (SAR) reporting requirements” which, according to FinCEN Acting Director Himamauli Das, “unnecessarily exposed the U.S. financial system to threat actors”.

Such infractions included failing to prevent users apparently located in the Crimea region of Ukraine, Cuba, Iran, Sudan, and Syria from using its platform to engage in over $263 million worth of cryptocurrency transactions between March 2014 and December 2017.

The Exchange That Time Forgot

OFAC and FinCEN’s dual investigation of Bittrex represents the first time the two agencies have worked together on such a case, with each levying a fine – OFAC’s fine was about $24 million, with FinCEN’s coming in at $29 million. According to terms of the settlement however, FinCEN will transfer $24 million to OFAC after it receives its $29-million payment from Bittrex, as some of the violations stem from the “same underlying conduct” as the OFAC investigation. This effectively means that Bittrex will have to pay a penalty of about $29 million.

Bittrex was a popular platform until the end of the 2017 bull market, since when it has slipped into near obscurity, and is now the 72nd most popular exchange by volume.