Binance has reportedly agreed to share user information with a Russian agency that collects and analyzes financial transaction information as the crypto exchange seeks to improve its relationship with governments around the world.
According to messages obtained by Reuters, in April last year, Binance’s head of Eastern Europe and Russia, Gleb Kostarev, met with the agency, known as Rosfinmonitoring or Rosfin, in Moscow at the invitation of a Russian non-profit organization called the Digital Economy Development Fund.
Via the messages obtained, Kostarev indicated that he did not have “much choice” in the matter.
Kostarev then agreed to share customer data and set up a local unit in Russia through which authorities can request access to data such as names and addresses to help them combat the crime. At the time, Rosfin was seeking to trace millions of dollars in bitcoins collected by imprisoned opposition leader Alexei Navalny, according to the report.
A Binance representative told The Block that it did not help the Russian state in its attempts to investigate Navalny, saying it was “materially inaccurate” to say that the money he raised through digital currencies was being investigated in his prosecution case.
“Binance has not entered into any form of unusual agreement with the Russian government that differs from any other jurisdiction,” they continued. “These bonds are ordinary and any traditional bank, for example, would be subject to the same requirements.”
Previously, Binance told Reuters that they never received any contact from Russian authorities regarding Navalny, nor did they confirm whether they had proceeded with setting up the local Russian unit.
“If we plan to establish a local entity in Russia in the future, Binance will never share data without a legitimate request from law enforcement,” Binance previously told Reuters.
This information emerges as Binance CEO Changpeng Zhao continues his charm offensive against government officials around the world. Last month, Zhao met with key British government figures including Downing Street and Treasury officials. More recently, he also announced a 100 million euros of investment in France alongside a partnership with the Station F startup incubator.
Update (12:30 p.m. ET): This story has been updated with further comments from a Binance representative.