Tornado Cash was added to the US sanctions list by the Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC) on August 8. Two days later, Alexey Pertsev, a coder tied to the crypto mixing service, was arrested by Dutch authorities.
The blacklisting and the subsequent events sparked an outcry from privacy proponents, with many protesting and engaging in acts of civil disobedience.
But according to intelligence firm, Kharon, Pertsev was formerly employed by a company linked to Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB). The report said,
“The individual, identified by various media reports as a developer of Tornado Cash, is a former employee of a Russian company sanctioned for providing support to Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB), Kharon has found.”
Tornado Cash’s Links to Russian Security Agency
The Kharon report confirmed that Tornado Cash was developed by a Delaware-registered corporation called PepperSec, with Pertsev being its founder and CEO. Pertsev, a Netherlands resident, reportedly worked at Digital Security OOO as an information security specialist and developer of smart contracts.
As per a press release dated June 11, 2018, Digital Security, which happens to be a Russian entity, was flagged by the United States Treasury Department for providing material and technological support to the FSB.
The Treasury had also alleged that, as of 2015, Digital Security was engaged in a project that would increase the offensive cyber capabilities of Russia’s intelligence services.
The Treasury Department’s unprecedented move has led to some strong reactions, with many affirming their stance to legally challenge the decision. While platforms such as Circle and dYdX have taken steps aligning with the sanctions, those opposing have stressed on the inconsistencies with the action itself. Researchers from Johns Hopkins University argued that OFAC’s order is ambiguous.
Pertsev, for one, has still not been formally charged with a crime. His bail request was, however, denied. A Dutch judge recently ruled that the coder must remain in prison for 90 days pending his trial. An online petition seeking Pertsev’s release has also gained traction. It currently has over 2,700 signatories.