US based Poloniex, LLC, a Delaware company with its principal place of business in Boston, Massachusetts which previously operated an online trading and settlement platform previously doing business as Poloniex Inc. (hereinafter collectively “Poloniex”) has agreed to remit $7,591,630 to settle its potential civil liability for 65,942 apparent violations of multiple sanctions programs with countries such as Syria, Sudan, Iran, and Crimea with U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC.)
As noted by OFAC, between January 2014 and November 2019, the Poloniex trading platform allowed customers apparently located in sanctioned jurisdictions to engage in online digital asset-related transactions consisting of trades, deposits, and withdrawals—with a combined value of $15,335,349, despite having reason to know their location based on both Know Your Customer information and internet protocol address data.
As per the OFAC statement, the settlement amount reflects OFAC’s determination that Poloniex’s apparent violations were not voluntarily self-disclosed and were not egregious.
The statement went on to read, “Although Poloniex made efforts to identify and restrict accounts with a nexus to Iran, Cuba, Sudan, Crimea, and Syria pursuant to its compliance program, certain customers apparently located in these jurisdictions continued to use Poloniex’s platform to engage in online digital asset-related transactions.”
Poloniex operations began in January 2014 by offering an online digital assets trading and settlement platform (“Poloniex Trading Platform”) that allowed customers to fund their accounts and conduct trading activity. Sixteen months later, in May 2015, Poloniex implemented a sanctions compliance program, which provided for a review of KYC information for new customers in jurisdictions subject to comprehensive OFAC sanctions; existing customers were not retroactively screened in this manner.
As a result, customers who had self-identified before May 2015 as residing in a sanctioned jurisdiction (i.e., customers who provided an address located within a sanctioned jurisdiction to Poloniex during the KYC process at the time of account opening) were generally able to continue using Poloniex’s platform. . Poloniex did not begin implementing a block on such IP addresses until June 2017. Poloniex implemented sanctions controls related to customers in the Crimea region of Ukraine only in August 2017.
Although Poloniex made efforts to identify and restrict accounts with a nexus to Iran, Cuba, Sudan, Crimea, and Syria pursuant to its compliance program, certain customers apparently located in these jurisdictions continued to use Poloniex’s platform to engage in online digital asset-related transactions (the “Apparent Violations”).
Stablecoin issuer Circle acquired Poloniex in 2018, after which time, OFAC’s investigation concluded, the firm’s compliance measures “further improved,” specifically by closing accounts with IP addresses operating in Crimea. A group of investors, which included Tron founder Justin Sun, purchased the firm from Circle in 2019.