When online detectives spotted the millions of dollars paid by U.S. companies, hospitals, and city governments to online extortionists as ransom (ransomware), they made a breakthrough: At least some of these ransoms were converted from cryptocurrencies to money within one of the most famous business addresses in Moscow.
The Biden administration has defined Moscow’s business gem, Federation Tower East, the tallest skyscraper in the Russian capital, as the zero point of these transformations.
The United States has targeted several companies in the tower as it seeks to punish Russian hackers who use ransomware, which encrypts the digital data of their victims and then demand payments to remove it.
The “jewel” of Moscow’s business district, a 97-storey ivory tower known as Federation Tower East or Vostok, the second tallest building in Europe, has been home to more than 12 companies since 2018 that convert cryptocurrencies into cash, judging by the headquarters they declare.
No illegality to the Activity of these Businesses
As the New York Times reports, there is nothing at its base illegal in the activity of these businesses. There is strong evidence, however, that such companies may allow criminals to cash in on profits from digital crimes, as long as they do not carefully identify their customers.
Experts have linked at least four of these companies to money laundering related to the highly profitable “industry” of cyber extortion for ransom (ransomware). For example, this industry has generated revenues of $1.6 billion in ransom since 2011.
Biden and Putin have been ”fighting” against the backdrop of cyberattacks on companies of U.S. interests or U.S. institutions for months. This year alone, criminal hackers, mostly based in Russia or Eastern Europe, have earned $590 million from ransomware attacks against schools, businesses, government agencies, and healthcare providers. This shows an increase of 42% than in the whole of 2020.
In June 2021, a month after a Russia-linked cyber-concordance won $4.4 million. Dol. from the U.S. colonial pipeline, Biden warned Putin that not ending these attacks would be met with retaliation.
Well Known And Prestigious Companies
EggChange is a tenant of the 22nd floor of Vostok tower (East Tower) and is under investigation in the U.S. and Europe over allegations of money laundering, according to three sources with knowledge of the matter.
Binance, the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchange, says it has also “flagged several accounts and illegal flows related to platforms such as EggChange and CashBank,” a second company that operates at Vostok and has the same object.
After alerting law enforcement of “potentially illegal activities,” Binance notes that it closed the accounts it identified.
As the Chainalysis website reported, “Buy-bitcoin.pro has processed hundreds of thousands of dollars for ransomware funds and other illegal administrators, including Hydra, the largest market for the “dark internet” based in Russia.”
Russian law requires companies to carry out customer identification checks (KYC) for cash transactions exceeding 600,000 rubles (about $8,500), although cryptocurrency exchanges are not controlled and their reporting obligations are not entirely clear. KYC rules usually involve cross-checking an individual’s personal information from public databases.