Bitfinex refuses to freeze crypto belonging to non-sanctioned Russians

The crypto community stands up for the rights of ordinary Russians amid hundreds of businesses leaving the country, but the final decision is up to regulators.

Amid global businesses boycotting the Russian residents over the military conflict in Ukraine, some companies in the cryptocurrency industry stand up for the rights of non-sanctioned Russian citizens.

Bitfinex, an affiliate firm of the world’s largest stablecoin provider, Tether (USDT), will not unilaterally freeze the accounts of ordinary Russian customers as part of the global sanctions unless it’s forced to do so, Bitfinex chief technology officer Paolo Ardoino told Cointelegraph on Thursday.

Ardoino emphasized that Bitfinex has taken appropriate action against the accounts of Russian users who have been sanctioned. “As with all our customer accounts, we work to ensure that there are no irregular movements or measures that might be in contravention of applicable international sanctions,” he noted.

According to Bitfinex, blocking all ordinary Russians over the ongoing conflict may be unfair on a human level as the actions of governments may not speak for individuals, the CEO said:

“Our view is that the actions of a government do not necessarily represent the wishes of individuals. Unless we are otherwise directed by the regulatory authorities by which we are governed, we want to protect the accounts of all our customers.”

Ardoino declined to comment on Bitfinex’s market in Russia, stating only that “Bitfinex does serve Russian customers.”

At the time of writing, Bitfinex’s terms of service read that a “sanctioned person” refers to any person or a digital token address that is either listed explicitly in any sanctions list directly or indirectly owned 50% or more by any person or group of persons in the aggregate with such a person. The sanctioned person on Bitfinex also refers to a person that is subject to any government approval or otherwise sanctioned, restricted, or penalized under applicable economic sanctions, the legal statement notes.

Launched back in 2012, Bitfinex is one of the world’s largest crypto exchanges, with daily trading volumes amounting to more than $800 million at the time of writing, according to data from CoinGecko. The Virgin Islands-based crypto exchange is known for being subject to regulatory litigations in the United States, with Bitfinex and Tether paying a $43 million fine over the U.S. Commodity Exchange Act violations in October 2021.

Bitfinex is not the only crypto exchange that wants to keep supporting ordinary Russians amid the ongoing global geopolitical issues. Michael Carter, chief compliance officer at Bittrex, told Cointelegraph that the crypto exchange is committed to ensuring that it remains compliant with the sanctions requirements while also creating “minimal disruptions for law-abiding traders,” including those in Russia. London-based cryptocurrency exchange Exmo also continues to support its Russian customers.

“We are not gonna sanction regular people and block their accounts,” Exmo head of business development Maria Stankevich said. However, the exchange will have to comply if the United Kingdom’s Financial Conduct Authority orders the sanctioning of regular people, she admitted.

Jerry Brito, the executive director of non-profit crypto policy advocate group Coin Center, at the start of March also called for global crypto companies to continue serving non-sanctioned Russian people, stating:

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