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Tornado Cash Dev Alexey Pertsev May Have Ties to Russian FSB

Pertsev allegedly worked for a company that supported the FSB, Russia's state intelligence apparatus and successor to the KGB.

Tornado Cash Dev Alexey Pertsev May Have Ties to Russian FSB
Cover artwork courtesy of the Set Alex Free campaign

Key Takeaways

  • Alexey Pertsev, a developer for Tornado Cash, reportedly worked for Digital Security OOO in 2017.
  • That company was sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury for supporting Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB).
  • Pertsev's wife, Ksenia Malik, has denied that husband was involved with any Russian intelligence agency.

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Alexey Pertsev, a developer arrested for his work on Tornado Cash, may have past ties to the Russian Federation’s central intelligence apparatus.

Pertsev Worked for Russian Security Firm

Alexey Pertsev likely worked for a Russian security company with ties to state intelligence agencies prior to his contributions to Tornado Cash.

According to the intelligence firm Kharon, Pertsev worked for the Russia-based Digital Security OOO in 2017. The U.S. Treasury sanctioned the firm in 2018, alleging that it had supported Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) since 2015.

Pertsev was not among the five entities and three individuals named by the Treasury in its statement. Instead, Kharon says it discovered Pertsev’s name in an archive of Digital Security OOO’s website.

Though Digital Security OOO may not have solely worked for the FSB, Pertsev’s involvement with the firm appears to be fairly in-depth. In a statement to Fortune, Kharon’s VP of research Nick Grothaus said that Pertsev was “working for Digital Security OOO and doing [penetration] testing himself” before the U.S. Treasury sanctioned the company for aiding the FSB.

Kharon also noted that Tornado Cash’s code was partially developed by PepperSec, a Delaware-based company where Pertsev was founder and CEO. However, it did not draw any direct link between PepperSEC and Digital Security OOO, nor did it link PepperSec to Russian intelligence agencies.

Pertsev’s wife, Ksenia Malik, has denied that Pertsev had any connections to Russian intelligence agencies. She told CoinDesk that Pertsev has “never been associated with the FSB in Russia or with similar organizations.” She did not comment on Pertsev’s alleged involvement with Digital Security OOO.

Malik added that she and her husband originally “moved to the Netherlands in the hope of a quiet, stable, and free life, which is unimaginable in military Russia.”

The Ethereum coin mixer Tornado Cash was sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control on August 8. Pertsev was arrested by Dutch authorities days later.

Disclosure: At the time of writing, the author of this piece owned BTC, ETH, and other cryptocurrencies.

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