SUEX became the first cryptocurrency exchange to be sanctioned by the United States, prohibiting U.S. citizens from doing business with the company. According to the press release, the Treasury argued that Suex allegedly facilitated financial transactions for ransomware threat actors.
Since opening its doors in 2018, Suex has moved hundreds of millions of dollars worth of cryptocurrency, mostly in Bitcoin, Ether, and Tether, much of which is from illicit and high-risk sources. In Bitcoin alone, Suex’s deposit addresses hosted at large exchanges have received over $160 million from ransomware actors, scammers, and darknet market operators.
Additionally, any entities 50% or more owned by one or more designated persons are also blocked. In addition, financial institutions and other persons that engage in certain transactions or activities with the sanctioned entities and individuals may expose themselves to sanctions or be subject to enforcement action.
This Is OFAC’s Statement on This Sanction
“SUEX has facilitated transactions involving illicit proceeds from at least eight ransomware variants. Transaction analysis shows that more than 40% of SUEX’s known transaction history is associated with illicit actors.” SUEX is being designated according to Executive Order 13694, OFAC noted.
Throughout the announcement, the U.S. Treasury stressed that crypto exchanges are “critical” to the profitability of hackers who use ransomware to implement attacks. This sanction follows recent actions taken by U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration against cyberattacks, which had finally become a national security concern.
“While most virtual currency activity is lawful, virtual currencies can be used for illicit activities through exchangers, mixers, and peer-to-peer exchanges. This includes facilitating sanctions evasion, ransomware schemes, and other cybercrime, OFAC added.
Separately, Chainalysis, a blockchain analytics platform, revealed today that it has been tracking Suex money laundering activity for some time.
This company noted that several Suex wallet addresses are included in the group of 273 deposit addresses that received 55% of all funds sent from illicit addresses in 2020.
Ransomware attacks are increasing in scale, sophistication, and frequency, victimizing governments, individuals, and private companies around the world. In 2020, ransomware payments reached over $400 million, more than four times their level in 2019