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$8 billion in Iranian funds said traded on largest crypto exchange despite sanctions

Binance announces it froze transfers and blocked accounts of ‘bad actors’ using Iranian platforms, as it runs risk of allowing US-sanctioned entities to move funds

Binance CEO Changpeng Zhao answers a question during a Zoom meeting interview with The Associated Press on November 16, 2021.  (AP Photo, File)
Binance CEO Changpeng Zhao answers a question during a Zoom meeting interview with The Associated Press on November 16, 2021. (AP Photo, File)

NEW YORK — Funds belonging to or intended for Iranians have flowed through the world’s largest cryptocurrency platform, Binance, the company said Friday, risking that it may run afoul of US-imposed sanctions.

“Earlier in the week, we discovered that Binance interacted” with “bad actors” using Iranian cryptocurrency exchanges, said Chagri Poyraz, head of sanctions at Binance.

Some of these users “attempted to move crypto through Binance’s exchange,” he wrote on the blog on the company’s website. “As soon as we discovered this, we moved to freeze transfers (and) block accounts.”

When asked by AFP about the number of these accounts and the amounts involved, Binance declined comment.

According to Reuters, some $7.8 billion has passed through Binance in connection with accounts domiciled on the busiest Iranian platform, Nobitex.

No Iranian cryptocurrency platforms are currently under sanctions. But US-imposed restrictions prohibit a US entity or US national from selling goods and services to Iranian residents, businesses or institutions. The ban includes financial services.

Binance was founded in 2017 by a Chinese-Canadian entrepreneur but following regulations on its activities in China, it moved its operations to Bahrain, Dubai, Paris and the Cayman Islands.

Binance’s United States subsidiary is Binance.US, an entity that has come into regulatory crosshairs.

According to Reuters, citing data from the specialized company Chainalysis, Binance.US has conducted transactions with Iranian cryptocurrency platforms.

When contacted by AFP, Chainalysis declined comment.

By validating transactions with Iranian sites, Binance also runs the risk that they have allowed individuals or entities targeted by US sanctions to move funds.

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