Treasury official admits most crypto transactions are 'legitimate', but still anticipates additional penalties

Wally Adeyemo, deputy secretary of the US Department of the Treasury, said the department would likely apply more penalties to companies ...



Wally Adeyemo, deputy secretary of the US Department of the Treasury, said the department would likely apply more penalties to companies involved in illicit transactions related to ransomware payments.

Speaking at an online event hosted by the Center for a New American Security with former Treasury Secretary Jack Lew and Ambassador Paula Dobriansky Adeyemo noted the US government would likely tap into its toolbox by employing sanctions when criminals threaten national security interests. He specifically mentioned “crypto exchanges or mixers that are fundamentally meant to favor cybercriminals” as possible targets.

“Our view is that the vast majority of digital assets are used for legitimate purposes, but for those that are primarily intended to promote criminal enterprises, we plan to use our tools to prosecute them,” Adeyemo said. “We also have to admit that ultimately the growth of digital assets is a challenge we need to address when it comes to our sanctions regimes.”

Adeyemo added that any investigation into illicit crypto sanctions would include collaboration with the FBI, the intelligence community and other agencies. His comments follow an Oct. 18 report that said the ministry need to do more to develop its infrastructure and policies regarding digital assets, as they hampered the implementation of sanctions while balancing the funds of legitimate humanitarian organizations. The report suggests that the US Treasury should modernize to include “the right expertise, technology and people” to tackle digital assets.

Related: Rogue States Dodge Economic Sanctions, But Is Crypto Wrong?

The government department has used sanctions as part of the United States’ efforts to tackle ransomware attacks threatening the country’s infrastructure, such as when the Russia-based company DarkSide Hackers Attacked Colonial Pipeline System in May. Last month, the department announced it would impose sanctions on the Czech Republic as well as Russian firm Suex OTC for allegedly allow hackers to access cryptocurrency sent as payment for ransomware attacks.