Kraken under Investigation over violation of federal sanctions

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Crypto exchange Kraken is reportedly undergoing investigation by the U.S. Treasury Department on suspicion it allowed Iranian users to utilize the site’s services in violation of federal sanctions.

The New York Times reported Tuesday that the Treasury Department was likely to impose a fine against the exchange, though it did not suggest a timeline for the enforcement action.

Kraken sent CoinDesk a statement from Chief Legal Officer Marco Santori saying that the exchange would not comment “on specific discussions with regulators.”

“Kraken has robust compliance measures in place and continues to grow its compliance team to match its business growth. Kraken closely monitors compliance with sanctions laws and, as a general matter, reports to regulators even potential issues,” Santori said.

A recent Reuters investigation found that crypto exchange Binance continued to allow Iranian users to place trades despite the sanctions and a company ban on doing business there.

Federal sanctions have long been a tool for the U.S. government to block individuals or nations from accessing the global financial system. Multiple crypto-users and addresses in Iran have been sanctioned in the past.

Several crypto platforms have proactively blocked Iranian users. NFT trading site OpenSea blocked Iranian users earlier this year, while Ethereum incubator ConsenSys blocked Iranian students from a coding boot camp in 2021.

Treasury has also not been shy about fining crypto companies in the past. BitGo, a crypto exchange, and BitPay, a transaction processor, have both faced steep Treasury fines for alleged sanctions violations.

Kraken’s CEO and co-founder, Jesse Powell, has voiced out his willingness to challenge regulations he sees as unfair, including international sanctions.

In February, after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Powell pushed back against calls to freeze the accounts of Kraken’s Russian users, tweeting: “Our mission at [Kraken] is to bridge individual humans out of the legacy financial system and to bring them into the world of crypto, where arbitrary lines on maps no longer matter, where they don’t have to worry about being caught in broad, indiscriminate wealth confiscation.”

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