UK crypto firm Copper sent 1,700 ETH to Russian arms dealer, report

A UK crypto firm allegedly used to dodge sanctions reportedly sent $4.2 million in crypto to a known member of an international Russian arms dealing network before he was sanctioned by the US. 

Crypto infrastructure firm Copper reportedly sent millions to the crypto wallet of Jonatan Zimenkov, an Israel-born Russian national accused by the US Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) of helping his father Igor Zimenkov, avoid sanctions and run an arms dealing collective.

Igor Zimenkov is alleged to be the leader of the Zimenkov network, which is accused by the OFAC of selling military equipment to third-world countries on Russia’s behalf while supporting defense entities key to Russia’s military-industrial complex.

“Igor and Jonatan Zimenkov both had direct correspondence with sanctioned Russian defense firms. They have additionally been involved in multiple deals for Russian cybersecurity and helicopter sales abroad,” the OFAC sanction reads.

Screenshot shared by the ICIJ of the crypto transactions sent to the Russian arms dealer’s son.

The Guardian and International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) found Copper sent Zimenkov 1,700 ETH in May 2021, worth $4.2 million, by linking his address to those sanctioned by the US. Both outlets report that the arms network was active for several years before the US issued Zimonkov’s sanction in 2023.  

Copper wasn’t obligated to perform checks

The Guardian admitted that it doesn’t know the purpose of the transactions or where the funds came from and it clarified that it’s not suggesting Copper breached any sanctions. It also claims that Zimenkov isn’t a client of Copper, absolving the firm of any legal obligation to perform any checks at the time. 

A Copper spokesperson told the Guardian it “takes its compliance, legal and regulatory obligations very seriously, and has acted in full compliance with all applicable regulatory standards, including all applicable sanctions prohibitions, in the UK.” 

Copper reportedly didn’t answer any questions inquiring about its relationship with Zimenkov, who also refused to comment when approached by the Guardian. 

Copper reportedly helped oligarch dodge sanctions

Copper, previously advised by former UK chancellor Sir Phillip Hammond, was reported last year to have helped a Russian oligarch evade US sanctions

Read more: For crypto and Russia: Spy ring guilty of Ukraine espionage

The Guardian claims that the crypto firm acted as an intermediary for Mikhail Klyukin when he sold his 2% of Copper shares, worth £15 million ($19 million) in May 2022. 

A Copper spokesperson denied the claim that it acted as an ‘intermediary’ for Klyukin’s share sale and claimed it intended to divest shares in Copper held by a company associated with a sanctioned individual.

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