US Deputy Treasury Secretary calls for additional tools to sanction crypto firms

Wally Adeyemo, Deputy Secretary of the United States Treasury, said his department is looking into new sanctions tools to pursue bad actors in the crypto space, citing a recent settlement with Binance.

In prepared remarks for the Blockchain Association’s Policy Summit on Nov. 29, Adeyemo said the U.S. Treasury had called on Congress to allow sanctions in which an entity could be fully cut off from the U.S. financial system. The Deputy Treasury Secretary said the move aimed to stop bad actors like the terrorist organization Hamas from “find[ing] safe haven within the digital asset ecosystem,” but also referenced U.S. authorities’ settlement with crypto exchange Binance.

“Over several years, Binance allowed itself to be used by the perpetrators of child sexual abuse, illegal narcotics trafficking, and terrorism, across more than 100,000 transactions,” said Adeyemo. “Groups like Hamas, Al Qaeda, and ISIS conducted these transactions.”

According to the Deputy Treasury Secretary, the U.S. government needed to coordinate with companies in the financial sector, with the latter sharing information related to combatting money laundering, fraud, and the financing of terrorism. He also hinted that stablecoin providers based outside the U.S. could be a target of authorities as Treasury officials work “to close these gaps.”

Related: US Treasury sanctions Gaza-based crypto operator allegedly tied to Hamas

Adeyemo’s remarks came the same day the U.S. Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control imposed sanctions on crypto mixer Sinbad, alleging the platform facilitated funds laundered for the North Korea-based Lazarus Group. On Nov. 21, Binance settled with U.S. authorities, including those at Treasury, in a $4.3 billion deal, requiring former CEO Changpeng Zhao to step down and plead guilty to one felony charge.

“[W]e need to update our illicit finance authorities to match the challenges we face today, including those presented by the evolving digital asset ecosystem […] we cannot rely on statutory definitions that are decades-old to address the illicit finance risks we face in 2023.”

In August, the U.S. Treasury released a draft of rules aimed at addressing difficulties in reporting and paying taxes on crypto transactions. Many have criticized the proposal as impractical due to the reporting requirements for brokers, expected to go into effect in 2026.

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