OFAC targets Ekaterina Zhdanova for laundering over $100m via crypto, evading sanctions for Russian oligarchs and aiding ransomware affiliates.
The U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) has announced sanctions against Ekaterina Zhdanova, a Russian national implicated in significant money laundering operations involving cryptocurrencies. Zhdanova is accused of facilitating over $100 million in transactions for a Russian oligarch to the United Arab Emirates, as well as handling large sums for a Ryuk ransomware affiliate.
According to OFAC’s investigation, Zhdanova’s activities offered a channel for Russian elites to maintain their wealth and status despite the extensive sanctions imposed following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Notably, her techniques included the establishment of tax residency and identification services in the UAE, enabling clients to create an apparently legitimate origin of funds. This deception technique was designed to withstand scrutiny from international banking authorities.
Utilizing cryptocurrencies and entities with lax regulatory oversight, Zhdanova has been a pivotal figure in moving illicit funds across borders. Her association with the luxury watch industry further provided a facade of legitimacy and sustained access to the global financial network.
Cybercrime ties and sanction details
Zhdanova allegedly laundered over $2.3 million in 2021 alone for the Ryuk ransomware gang. The group has notably targeted hospitals and healthcare providers in the U.S., representing a severe cyber threat.
The sanctions mandate the freezing of Zhdanova’s assets within U.S. jurisdiction and prohibit transactions with her by U.S. persons. Financial institutions engaging with Zhdanova or associated entities risk sanctions or enforcement actions.