Treasury official: Sanctions against crypto mixers can deter financial crimes 

Quick Take

  • Cryptocurrency mixers can help users evade Russian sanctions and launder money, a Treasury Department official said during a Senate Banking Committee hearing on Tuesday.
  • Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) ripped cryptocurrency mixers during the hearing, saying the industry has downplayed and lied about negative impacts of the technology.

Sanctions against cryptocurrency mixers like Tornado Cash can strengthen the United States’ sanctions regime against Russia and other illicit actors, and can serve as a deterrent to criminals that would use the technology to launder money, Treasury Department Assistant Secretary Elizabeth Rosenberg said during a hearing on Tuesday.

“That’s an effective avenue we can use in order to signal that we cannot tolerate money laundering,” said Rosenberg, who serves as assistant secretary for terrorist financing and financial crimes, a top U.S. sanctions policy position. “Whether that's for a Russian criminal actor, an Iranian, a North Korean or wherever they may come from.”

Rosenberg appeared before the Senate Banking Committee for a hearing titled “Tightening the Screws on Russia: Smart Sanctions, Economic Statecraft and Next Steps.” Rosenberg was responding to questions from Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), who ripped the crypto industry for “downplaying” and “lying” about the risks posed by crypto mixers. 

“One thing I've learned over the past couple of years: When the crypto boosters cry the loudest, you're probably on to something.” Warren said. “If crypto has nothing to hide on money laundering for oligarchs or drug lords or tax evaders, then they shouldn't mind a little transparency.”

The Treasury Department was met with fierce criticism from the crypto industry when it sanctioned crypto mixer Tornado Cash last month. The department added Tornado Cash to its Specially Designated Nationals, barring Americans from interacting with the tech.

Warren asked Rosenberg whether digital assets could be used by Russian oligarchs to avoid sanctions on Russia.

“Yes, senator. That’s possible,” Rosenberg said.

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