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On Thursday, the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs will hold a hearing called “Understanding The Role of Digital Assets in Illicit Finance”. While hearings on cryptocurrency have been a regular feature in Congress lately, this one wins the prize for what could be the most entertaining, intellectually stimulating, and bizarre moment the world will see since the start of the Russia-Ukraine war.
Although not listed as the star witness, as he will be accompanied by three other extremely accomplished witnesses, Michael Chobanian, founder of the Kuna Exchange and President of the Blockchain Association of Ukraine is slated to provide testimony to the world’s greatest deliberative body. Between Ukraine and an NGO called ‘Come Back Alive’, the cryptocurrency fundraising efforts in Ukraine are estimated at a whopping $63.8 million dollars, according to blockchain analytics firm Elliptic.
With Kuna as the largest cryptocurrency exchange in Ukraine, Chobanian has been the brains behind the scenes in helping Ukraine to raise and manage its cryptocurrency donations to fund both the war effort and the humanitarian needs of the country. From some of his recent TV and podcast appearances, Chobanian has stated he is only functioning on two hours of sleep while participating in what is likely the first global public campaign that is crowdfunding the military of a nation state that has been invaded by another country.
Now, in the midst of all that Chobanian is facing, he will find himself as a witness before the U.S. Senate where he will have the opportunity to share how Ukrainian Government and its citizens are benefitting from cryptocurrency donations. Meanwhile, with concerns as to how Russia could use cryptocurrency to evade sanctions as another angle for this hearing, our U.S. Senators will truly earn their paychecks as they will face the stark reality of a world disrupted by new digital commerce that acts nothing like the norms they are accustomed to with fiat money.
And, as if this Ukrainian crypto rainmaker was not excitement enough, Michael Mosier, the Former Acting Director, Deputy Director/Digital Innovation Officer of the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), will provide the hearing strong context around the role the U.S. and its financial institutions must play in the sanctions against Russia – and how cryptocurrency may thwart this mission. At FinCEN, Mosier was responsible for Anti-Money Laundering (AML) and Know Your Customer (KYC) requirements, and his former agency just issued a release that included red flags on potential Russian sanction evasion attempts for U.S. financial institutions to be aware of. Meanwhile, the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), responsible for enforcing economic sanctions, issued updated guidance on how virtual currencies are prohibited as part of economic sanctions against Russia, just like fiat currencies.
Mosier, who previously worked at Chainalysis, will share the panel with an old colleague, as Mr. Jonathan Levin, Co-Founder and Chief Strategy Officer at Chainalysis, Inc. will be testifying as well. Chainalysis, arguably the leading blockchain data platform that provide data, software, services, and research to government agencies, exchanges, financial institutions, and insurance and cybersecurity companies in over 60 countries, published a blog at the beginning of the year on crypto crime trends. According to the trend analysis, Chainalysis noted illicit transaction activity in cryptocurrency has reached an all-time high in value, while also reaching an all-time low in the share of all cryptocurrency activity.
Finally, Shane T. Stansbury, a Robinson Everett Distinguished Fellow in the Center for Law, Ethics, and National Security at Duke Law, served previously as an Assistant United States Attorney in the Southern District of New York (SDNY), with some of the most sensitive and noteworthy prosecutions in the areas of terrorism, cybercrime, espionage, money laundering, international public corruption, and global weapons trafficking. The Senate Banking Committee hearing can be viewed here and scheduled for 10 am on Thursday, March 17, in the Dirksen Senate Office Building.