US authorities go after Russian crypto bosses amid fears of US election intervention

Ilya Gambashidze and Nikolai Tupikin, the founder of Social Design Agency and CEO and owner of Company Group Structura respectively, have been targeted by US sanctions amid alleged interference with the US presidential elections. According to the Treasury Department, the individuals have created a network of 60 websites that were purposefully and malignantly publishing materials that were set to undermine the democratic process in the United States.

The websites themselves emulated a journalistic standard, but were not in fact legacy media outlets, the Department stated and said that the content that was produced by the network was subsequently amplified through social media accounts. The US has also chosen to sanction two Tether wallet addresses, a rare move, but also reflective of the country’s ability to now fight suspected crimes in the cryptocurrency space on a more specific and technological level as well.

The Tether wallet in question was supposedly linked to Tupikin and Gambashidze. Commenting for the Financial Times which reported exclusively on the matter, Chainalysis head of sanctions strategy Andrew Fierman said that Russian actors are leveraging cryptocurrencies to intervene in the election process of the United States.

“They have done so before and are going to do so again. With this action, the US government is sending a signal that they’re on high alert, especially in an election year,” Fierman told the publication. The anti-Russia rhetoric is mounting at a steady pace in the country, and across institutional chatter with Treasury under-secretary Brian Nelson saying that the country remained committed to exposing Russia’s “extensive campaigns of government-directed deception.”

Yet, the US sanction regime is far from having its intended effect, as bad actors continue to circumnavigate the hurdles expertly and still attempt to influence public sentiment in democracies. According to the Financial Times, Gambashidze has already targeted voters in several countries in Europe, including France, Italy, and Germany, which makes the issue much more serious than regional interference with the democratic process.

Chainalysis has also been able to tie the majority of USDT funds used by Gambashidze’s wallets to Garantex, a Russian cryptocurrency exchange that the United States has also attacked with sanctions. Sanctions may ultimately fall flat as they are unable to truly deter bad actors or their influence, mounting yet another challenge for watchdogs such as the Treasury and other custodians of national security.

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