Congresswoman calls Yellen to account for work on targeting crypto in Russian sanctions evasion

Lawmakers want more answers on the Treasury’s work targeting crypto in Russia’s sanctions evasion.

On April 6, Janet Yellen, secretary of the US Treasury Department, testified before the House Financial Services Committee in a hearing entitled “The State of the International Financial System.”

Though Yellen only said the word “sanction” once in her opening statements, it was the central focus of many of the representatives on the committee, with many on ways of tightening sanctions against Russia’s government. 

Nydia Velásquez (D-NY), the second-most senior Democrat on the committee, spotlit the role of crypto, asking Yellen:

“Many of us on this committee are concerned about a potential use of cryptocurrencies and other digital assets in order to avoid sanctions,” asked Velásquez. “How is the Treasury Department carrying out this pledge?”

Yellen enumerated the Treasury’s work on sanctioning cryptocurrencies, saying “we’re monitoring for any attempts to use cryptocurrency to evade sanctions.”

She listed work from the Office of Foreign Asset Control and Financial Crimes Enforcement Network to target crypto exchanges serving Russian cybercrime, including designating darknet market Hydra and affiliated crypto exchange Garantex just yesterday.

The Treasury has made a number of public statements on crypto and sanctions in the past month and a half in response to a great deal of political concern over the issue. This is despite limited evidence that it is happening or even viable in the case of Russia. 

In contrast, Republicans were generally more interested in explanations for why the Treasury had not done more to target Russia’s energy markets. 

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