Alleged Iranian bitcoin launderer disputes US sanctions

Blacklisted bitcoin exchanger maintains his innocence. Bitfinex lists new stablecoins to trade against tether. Startup gets $27.5 million in funding round.

Well, would you look at that. CoinDesk managed to snag an interview with Mohammad Ghorbaniyan, the Iranian bitcoin exchange operator allegedly associated with a destructive ransomware attack—SamSam—that affected around 200 businesses and institutions.

A bit of background: Ghorbaniyan allegedly helped Mohammad Mehdi Shah Mansouri and Faramarz Shahi Savandi, two men wanted by the FBI for their role in creating SamSam, swap the bitcoin they had stolen for Iranian rials. While Ghorbaniyan admits he did facilitate the exchange, he maintains he had no idea where the bitcoin came from, or that he was dealing with wanted men. Despite the protest, Ghorbaniyan’s bitcoin address and Gmail have been suspended and the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) has added him to its sanctions list last week.

“We are an Iranian exchange and we work under the law of our country, Iran, according to the rules of the Iranian cyber police,” he explained to CoinDesk. “If I was trying to do criminal activities wouldn’t I be more concerned with hiding my identity?”

Ghorbaniyan added that he had subjected his alleged associates to full know-your-customer checks and that he would be willing to give up whatever data he must to clear his name. Will the FBI take Ghorbaniyan off their naughty list? Let’s wait and see what Santa leaves under the tree, eh?

Stablecoins v. stablecoins

Bitfinex, the cryptocurrency exchange and sister company to so-called stablecoin Tether, has announced that users can now buy and sell four competing stablecoins — the Gemini Dollar, Circle’s USD Coin, True USD, and Paxos on its platform. These four join the Dai to make up the stable stable. Which means traders can now have fun trading functionally equivalent assets with one another for marginal profits of zero. T’will be a Merry Christmas for all.  

Funding Round

Normally a scoop like “series B funding round secured” would not qualify for the hallowed pages of the Daily Debrief, but yeesh, look at this one. A company called ErisX managed to secure $27.5 million in a fundraiser from grandees including Bitmain, ConsenSys, Fidelity Investments, Nasdaq Ventures, Monex Group, CTC Group Investments, Digital Currency Group, DRW Venture Capital, Pantera Capital, and, last and probably least, Valor Equity Partners. That’s a lot of companies that think ErisX is really good! So what, pray, does it actually do?

It’s basically a trading platform that borrows ideas from fiat markets—futures trading and spot markets (where settlements are closed out within two days)—and shoehorns them into crypto. Which doesn’t sound all that exciting. More tantalising perhaps is the company’s desire to be fully regulated by the Commodities Futures Trading Commission, soothing words for investors still scorned by the SEC’s feelings on ICOs.

Let the “responsible and fully regulated startup” bubble commence.

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