Binance, the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchange by trading volume, denied sharing client data with Russian authorities, following allegations made by a Reuters news investigation into the exchange’s ties with the country.
“Suggestions that Binance shared any user data, including Alexei Navalny, with Russian FSB [Federal Security Service] controlled agencies and Russian regulators are categorically false,” Binance said in a statement.
The strong denial comes after Reuters on Friday reported that Gleb Kostarev, Binance’s head of Russia, met with a Russian financial intelligence unit in April 2021 and later consented to the agency’s request to share client data.
Reuters noted, citing an anonymous source, that the Russian unit Rosfinmonitoring (Rosfin) was, at the time, looking to trace Bitcoin worth millions of dollars raised by jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny.
Alexei Navalny, known as a prominent critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin, was jailed last January when returning to Russia after he survived a poisoning for which he claimed Putin was behind the attack.
“Binance has not sought to actively assist the Russian state in its attempts to investigate Alexi Navalny,” Binance said, adding that any law enforcement agency in the world can request user data from the exchange “as long as it is accompanied by the proper legal authority.”
However, the exchange went on to say: “Binance reserves the right to reject law enforcement requests should they not stand up to legal scrutiny; this applies to all jurisdictions including Russia.”
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In response to the Reuters report, Binance’s Kostarev wrote in a Facebook post on Saturday that “it is an absolute lie that I or Binance leaked the data of Navalny or users to Rosfin or FSB.”
Meanwhile, Binance put in its statement a lengthy email thread between Patrick Hillmann, chief communications officer of Binance, and the Reuters reporters.
“Read the article, which includes email exchanges with the journalists to find out more, and have your own opinion,” Changpeng Zhao, founder and CEO of Binance, tweeted Saturday from his verified account.
Binance also noted that it will be writing a formal complaint to Reuters under the publication’s editorial code.
Binance has made adjustments to its services in Russia based on the sanctions against the country after its invasion of Ukraine. In March, the crypto exchange stopped supporting Visa and Mastercard cards issued in Russia.
On Thursday, Binance said it’s now limiting services for Russians or users residing in Russia that have crypto assets over 10,000 euros (US$10,780) to “withdrawal-only mode.”
“As soon as the war started, we stopped working in Russia,” Binance said.
“Instead, we implemented sanction requirements,” Binance said, claiming that it is the only crypto exchange to implement the latest package of sanctions imposed by the European Union targeting Russian account holders.