One of the two Iranians whose Bitcoin addresses were added to the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control sanctions list last week has claimed he is innocent of allegations of laundering stolen Bitcoin. Mohammad Ghorbaniyan is believed to have received and sold Bitcoin on behalf of the two hackers behind the SamSam ransomware attack that occurred earlier this year and caused $30 million worth of damage worldwide.
Ghorbaniyan claimed in an interview that he was unaware of where hackers Mohammad Mehdi Shah Mansouri and Faramarz Shahi Savandi obtained the Bitcoin he sold for them over a number of years, which came from over 200 victims of the hacks.
Ghorbaniyan’s business acted as a go-between for a number of Bitcoin users who wanted a quick and convenient way to convert the cryptocurrency to Iranian rial. He states that he had been dealing with the two accused hackers for a number of years and they communicated with him in the same way as all of his customers, so he had no reason to doubt their intentions. He is therefore: “…honestly still not sure if these two people are behind the SamSam crimes.” Ghorbaniyan himself ran a legitimate business and was fully KYC verified with Iranian authorities, although it is unclear if Savandi and Mansouri were.
A Case of Crossed Wires?
Ghorbaniyan has offered to give up all electronic communications with Savandi and Mansouri to the police, adding that had he known they were involved in criminal activities he would not have taken them on as customers. He cited the fact that he is very open and transparent with his identity as a reason why he would not have knowingly become involved in illegal activities, as he would have been very easy to trace, which he was. He claims his business is run in line with Iranian law and that the US has made a mistake by not talking to Iranian authorities first to prove that his busines is legitimate.
Ghorbaniyan is understandably very keen to get his name withdrawn from the register as, presumably, his business has been wounded if not dealt a fatal blow by the US authorities. Ghorbaniyan notes that access to his email and cryptocurrency information portal has been blocked as a result. The US has shown that it is very keen to tackle misdemeanors in the cryptocurrency world which is to be applauded, but not if it results in them jumping the gun and targeting innocent people.