Crypto giant Binance is reportedly facing US probe for violating Russian sanctions

The DOJ is investigating whether Binance allowed Russian users to get around US banking sanctions.

Ben McShane via Getty Images

Binance is reportedly facing yet another investigation by the US Justice Department, and this time, it's over possible violations against sanctions imposed against Russia. According to Bloomberg, the agency is looking into whether the cryptocurrency exchange allowed Russian customers to move money as a way to go around US sanctions on the country's financial institutions. The news organizations' sources also said that Binance is discussing the possibility of settling with the DOJ regarding previous allegations that the exchange was also used to move money to circumvent US sanctions against Iran.

If you'll recall, United States and the European Union imposed sanctions against Russian financial institutions following the invasion of Ukraine. Mykhailo Federov, Ukraine's Vice Prime Minister, asked major crypto exchanges to freeze all Russian and Belarusian accounts at the same time, but Binance was one of the companies that refused to do so. Back then, a spokesperson said that unilaterally banning people's access to cryptocurrency "would fly in the face of the reason why crypto exists," because it would affect ordinary users and not just Russian oligarchs.

If the DOJ truly is looking into Binance's activities related to Russian sanctions, then it's merely one of the investigations the exchange is grappling with. The DOJ and the Internal Revenue Service started looking into reports that Binance is being used for money laundering schemes in 2021. And just earlier this year, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) charged Binance and its founder Changpeng Zhao (pictured above) for not asking users to verify their identities, offering unregistered crypto derivatives and for implementing measures to avoid US regulation. Binance told us at the time that it found the charges "unexpected and disappointing."

This time, it told Bloomberg in a statement: "In 2021, Binance launched an initiative to completely overhaul its corporate governance structure, including bringing in a world-class bench of seasoned executives to fundamentally change how Binance operates globally." The spokesperson continued that the company now observes strict know-your-customer protocols similar to the ones employed by traditional banks. "Our policy," they said, "imposes a zero-tolerance approach to double registrations, anonymous identities, and obscure sources of money," While they didn't specifically address the allegations, the statement sounds like a denial that the company's service allowed Russian users to flout US sanctions.