Crypto exchange Bittrex to pay $29-mln penalty to U.S. Treasury Department

Signage is seen at the United States Department of the Treasury headquarters in Washington, D.C., U.S., August 29, 2020. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

Oct 11 (Reuters) - The U.S. Treasury Department said on Tuesday that cryptocurrency exchange Bittrex Inc had agreed to pay $29 mln in fines for "apparent violations" of sanctions on certain countries and anti-money laundering law.

The Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) and Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) had levied fines of about $24 million and $29 million, respectively, on Bittrex.

But according to terms of the settlement, FinCEN would transfer $24 million to OFAC after it receives its $29-million payment from Bittrex, as some of the violations stem from the "same underlying conduct" as the OFAC investigation.

Effectively, Bittrex will have to pay a penalty of about $29 million.

Bittrex failed to prevent people located in the sanctioned jurisdictions of Ukraine's Crimea region, Cuba, Iran, Sudan and Syria from using its platform between March 2014 and December 2017, according to OFAC.

FinCEN said its investigation found that from February 2014 through December 2018, Bittrex did not maintain an effective anti-money laundering program.

"Bittrex's AML program failed to appropriately address the risks associated with the products and services it offered, including anonymity-enhanced cryptocurrencies," it added.

Cryptocurrencies and other digital assets have soared in popularity over recent years and are getting increasingly intertwined with the regulated financial system, saddling policymakers with monitoring risks in a largely unregulated sector.

Bittrex in an emailed statement to Reuters said it was "pleased to have fully resolved" the matter with OFAC and FinCEN on mutually agreeable terms.

Reporting by Manya Saini and Niket Nishant in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D'Silva and Vinay Dwivedi

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