Ukraine has taken down an illicit money laundering network that operated throughout the country, converting Russian rubles into Ukrainian hryvnia using sanctioned Russian payment systems and cryptocurrency exchanges. The “black money exchanges” network was reportedly processing more than $4 million each month. Ukrainian authorities, with the help of cyber specialists from the Security Service of Ukraine, conducted raids on currency exchange centers in Kyiv, Kharkiv, Rivne, and Sumy, leading to the seizure of approximately $1.6 million in cash and computer equipment.
Furthermore, the network’s modus operandi involved utilizing unnamed cryptocurrency exchanges, along with Russian payment systems YooMoney and WebMoney. Funds in the form of cryptocurrency, converted from rubles, were received by these exchanges. The primary clientele of the network included hackers and business individuals who were engaged in suspicious transactions within Russia.
These operations came under scrutiny after the Kremlin’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, leading to the imposition of economic sanctions by the U.S. Department of the Treasury targeting key elements of the Russian financial system, including YooMoney.
At the same time, WebMoney, one of Russia’s largest electronic payments processors, was previously subjected to Ukrainian sanctions in 2018. As a result, the illicit money laundering services that used these sanctioned systems in Ukraine now face the prospect of legal consequences.
Additionally, ukrainian authorities intend to prosecute the operators of these services under a statute that prohibits the transfer of documents, payment cards, and other means of accessing bank accounts, electronic money, or equipment associated with illegal activities. The successful dismantling of this multi-million dollar black money exchange network marks a significant step in Ukraine’s efforts to combat financial crime and sends a strong message against illicit financial operations within its borders.