Binance reportedly agreed to share user information with a Russian agency that collects and analyzes information about financial transactions as the crypto exchange seeks to enjoy better relations with governments around the world.
According to messages obtained by Reuters, in April last year, Binance’s head of Eastern Europe and Russia Gleb Kostarev met with the agency, known as Rosfinmonitoring or Rosfin, in Moscow at the invitation of a Russian non-profit organization called the Digital Economy Development Fund.
Via the obtained messages, Kostarev indicated he didn’t have “much of a choice” in the matter.
Kostarev subsequently agreed to share client data and set up a local unit in Russia through which authorities can request access to data such as names and addresses to help them fight crime. At the time, Rosfin was seeking to trace millions of dollars in bitcoin raised by jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny, according to the report.
A Binance representative told The Block that it did not assist the Russian state in its attempts to investigate Navalny, saying that it was “materially inaccurate” to say that the money he raised via digital currencies was under investigation in his prosecution case.
“Binance has not entered into any form of unusual agreement with the Russian government that differs from any other jurisdiction,” they continued. “These obligations are ordinary and any traditional bank for example would be subject to the same requirements.”
Previously Binance told Reuters that they had never received contact from Russian authorities regarding Navalny nor did they confirm whether they had proceeded with setting up the local Russian unit.
“Should we consider establishing a local entity in Russia in the future, Binance will never share data without a legitimate law enforcement request.,” said Binance, previously to Reuters.
This information emerges as Binance CEO Changpeng Zhao continues his charm offensive toward government officials around the world. Last month, Zhao met with key figures in the UK government including officials from Downing Street and the Treasury. Most recently, it also announced a €100 million investment into France alongside a partnership with startup incubator Station F.
Update (12:30 pm ET): This story was updated with further comments from a Binance representative.