John Desmond Hanafin, a 48-year-old Irish businessman, has claimed to be an ambassador, a footballer agent, and a cryptocurrency investor. But US Treasury has just assigned him a new role.
In a release on Friday, May 19, the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), the American financial intelligence agency, accused Hanafin of having helped wealthy Russian nationals to obtain fake passports in order to evade the sanctions put in place by the European Union and the United States at the beginning of the invasion of Ukraine by Russia. The businessman based in Dubai benefited from “assistance from corrupt government officials,” according to OFAC, listing some 20 individuals and 100 companies suspected of “attempting to circumvent or evade sanctions and other economic measures against Russia”.
The US Treasury also accused Hanafin of helping wealthy Russians to quickly transfer their financial assets to the United Arab Emirates in early 2022.
Funds deposited in a cryptocurrency account
To carry out these transactions, he says the Irishman acted through his company based in the Emirates, specializing in offshore finance. On its website, the firm, named Huriya Private (huriya can be translated as “freedom”), offers “a select number of families and private individuals” tailor-made investment programs to obtain Irish, Portuguese or Moldovan citizenship. Other companies based in Hong Kong and Cyprus belonging to the entrepreneur have also been sanctioned by the US.
The documents released by OFAC include a crypto wallet address under Hanafin’s name. According to the data kept in memory by the blockchain, nearly $4.9 million (€4.6 million) has passed through this account in the form of cryptocurrency since January 18, 2022, the date of the first transfer.
This digital asset payment method has been favored by Russian nationals since Moscow’s disconnection from the Swift banking system on March 1, 2022. In a report published in April, the Russian central bank was even considering the use of digital currencies to trade with other countries.
As an immediate consequence of this alert, Hanafin’s assets and interests in the US or under the control of American citizens are deemed blocked and must be reported to OFAC. US citizens are also prohibited from performing transactions with him.