Expanding on a report by the New York Times earlier this month, further investigation efforts reveal that Moscow’s Federation Tower East is home to a surprising concentration of cybercriminals and their money laundering enablers.
One of the tallest and most prestigious high rises in the world, the Federation Tower East (Vostok) is home to many of Russia’s elites, with some residential units going for over $30 million. They are joined by an odd mixture of individuals wanted and sanctioned by the US government for a wide assortment of computer-based crimes.
Among the businesses registered as operating in the Federation Tower East are Suex and EggChange – two crypto exchangers that had previously been sanctioned by the US Treasury Department for their role in cashing out ransomware payments collected from US companies (such as Colonial Pipeline).
The tower is also home to suspected members of EvilCorp, one of Russia’s biggest and oldest hacking groups which has been under the eye of US law enforcement since 2010. Maksim Yakubets, the alleged leader of the group, is accused of extorting or stealing more than $100 million in hacks that affected 40 countries. Both he and EvilCorp associate Igor Turashev have offices in the Federation Tower, with multiple companies registered under their name(s).
Another exchange found to have processed a significant amount of Bitcoin from the Hydra darknet marketplace, Buy-bitcoin.pro, also has an office in the tower, along with the similarly-described CashBank.
According to Massachusetts-based cybersecurity firm Recorded Future, there are about 50 cryptocurrency exchanges in Moscow City, the financial district of the capital, that engage in some form of illicit transactions.
The US Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) estimated that approximately $590 million in crypto ransoms were paid out to attackers in the first six months of 2021 – a figure that is 42% larger than the amount paid across the entirety of 2020.
Russia, which recently set up a working group to tackle the gaps in cryptocurrency regulation, began the partial regulation of cryptocurrency in January this year, after the earlier passage of law pertaining to how the country would treat “digital financial assets.”
In a meeting with President Biden last summer, President Putin dismissed the idea that ransomware cybercriminals plaguing the US were based out of Russia, although he also pledged to remain open to cooperative efforts in helping to resolve the issue.