Crypto Firm Copper Allegedly Sent $4.2M to Sanctioned Russian Arms Dealer’s Wallet

Shalini Nagarajan
Last updated: | 1 min read
Source: Midjourney

UK-based crypto firm Copper Technologies reportedly transferred digital assets totaling more than $4.2m to a wallet associated with a Russian arms dealer. Subsequently, the individual faced US sanctions months later.

The Guardian reported that these transfers were made to 29-year-old Russian national Jonatan Zimenkov in May 2021. The US sanctioned him in Feb. 2023 for allegedly assisting the Russian military in the Ukraine invasion as part of the “Zimenkov network.” This network was led by his father, Igor Zimenkov.

At the time of the transaction, Zimenkov didn’t face any sanctions. Rather, they were imposed on him 19 months later. The US Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) indicated that it suspected the network, including Zimenkov, had been operational for several years prior to the imposition of restrictions.

Copper didn’t return Cryptonews’ request for comment by press time.

Blockchain records show that Copper transferred over 1,700 units of Ethereum, valued at over $4.2m in May 2021, to Zimenkov. These transfers were conducted through two transactions on the same day, Etherscan data showed.

Unclear Intentions Behind Copper Transfer to Zimenkov

According to OFAC, the Zimenkov network had engaged in various activities, including deals related to Russian cybersecurity and helicopter sales overseas. Additionally, there were efforts to provide weapons to a country in Africa.

It was identified as part of a “sanctions evasion network” that operated for several years. Zimenkov’s father was accused by US authorities of leading this purported arms-dealing network.

Copper was not implicated in any wrongdoing or violations of sanctions or regulations during the transaction.

The intention behind the transaction remains unclear. The recipient of the Ethereum transactions is unidentified in blockchain records, only displaying their digital currency address—a sequence of letters and numbers. However, this address was later mentioned in a US Treasury announcement in February 2023, outlining sanctions against the Zimenkov network.

US Sanctions Targeting Russian Entities

Following the Ukraine invasion, the US enacted sanctions on Russians to disrupt Russia’s military operations and penalize entities aiding Russia’s weapon acquisition or involvement in removing Ukrainian children from their homes.

These sanctions involved freezing foreign currency reserves, prohibiting technology exports, seizing oligarchs’ yachts, and impacting Russia’s oil industry.

Additionally, the US imposed sanctions on a Russian crypto mining company to dissuade Moscow from evading existing sanctions imposed as consequences of the Ukraine invasion.