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US sanctions Russian national for helping elites launder money

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WASHINGTON, Nov 3 (Reuters) – The United States sanctioned a Russian national on Friday for helping Russian elites to launder and transfer hundreds of millions of dollars using virtual currency in contravention of existing sanctions imposed after Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

Ekaterina Zhdanova helped a Russian client hide their source of wealth to transfer more than $2.3 million into western Europe through a fraudulently opened investment account and real estate purchases in 2022, allowing for sanctions evasion, the Treasury Department said in a statement.

Zhdanova also used virtual currency exchanges to help oligarchs who had relocated internationally, it said.

In one example listed by the department, a Russian oligarch asked Zhdanova to move more than $100 million to the United Arab Emirates. She also established a UAE tax residency service for Russian clients and may have helped to obfuscate their identities, the statement said.

To facilitate large cross-border transactions, the department said Zhdanova used virtual currency entities, including Garantex, a prominent Russia-based darknet market site and cryptocurrency exchange that was sanctioned by the U.S. in 2022 for operating in Russia’s financial services sector.

The department did not say where it believes Zhdanova is currently located.

“Our action today highlights the consequences of supporting corrupt Kremlin proxies, underscores the United States’s efforts to address the abuse of virtual currency to launder illicit funds, and exposes an illicit actor’s money laundering activities,” State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said.

Under the U.S. sanctions program that targets certain harmful Russian foreign activities, all of Zhdanova’s assets in the U.S. are blocked and U.S. citizens are prohibited from dealing with her.

Reporting by Katharine Jackson and Timothy Ahmann; Editing by Caitlin Webber and Gareth Jones

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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