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U.S. officials have broken their month-long quiet after banning the Ethereum coin-mixing utility Tornado Cash. The Treasury Department established a method for Tornado Cash customers to recover cash on Tuesday and addressed other urgent concerns regarding the penalties.
The Treasury Department's August decision to prohibit Tornado Cash drove the cryptocurrency world into a frenzy over privacy and government supervision, leaving many questioning if their ordinary crypto activities may result in criminal prosecution.
At the time, the Treasury's Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC) stated that Tornado Cash enabled money laundering and terrorism.
According to a Tuesday update to the “frequently asked questions” section of its website, OFAC will provide a means for Tornado Cash customers to withdraw deposited monies from the now-blacklisted platform legitimately.
Individuals who deposited monies into Tornado Cash before August 8, the date the Treasury prohibited American individuals from dealing with the program, will now be able to obtain a special license from OFAC that, if granted, will allow them to withdraw the funds.
“OFAC would have a positive licensing stance toward such applications if the transaction did not entail additional sanctionable activity,” the Treasury said.
In addition, according to the new webpage, those who were transferred modest sums of Tornado-cash money without their consent are unlikely to face criminal punishment.
As a result of OFAC’s penalties on Tornado Cash, several wallet addresses associated with the tool have been placed on a blocklist. Theoretically, any interaction with these addresses is equivalent to conducting business with a hostile government or terrorist group. In the days following the imposition of penalties, an anonymous Tornado Cash user “dusted” several celebrities, including Jimmy Fallon and Logan Paul, potentially exposing them to criminal culpability.
Today, the government declared that it would “not prioritize enforcement” against persons, such as those celebrities, who “have received unsolicited and little quantities” of Tornado Cash virtual currency.
Such a viewpoint, however, leaves some uncertainty.
It was not stated what quantity of cryptocurrencies the Treasury would deem “nominal” in this situation. In addition, it is unclear how the Treasury would determine which transactions using these blacklisted addresses are unsolicited and which are not.
The Treasury also indicated that while it remains unlawful for a U.S. person to engage in transactions with Tornado Cash, it is allowed to distribute information about the tool, including its underlying open-source code.
Following the Treasury’s announcement of penalties on Tornado Cash in early August, the Microsoft-owned software development platform GitHub withdrew Tornado Cash’s open source code from its website.
Since then, several people, including a professor from Johns Hopkins, have made measures to publicly preserve Tornado Cash’s underlying code to combat the possibility that the U.S. government, in banning a service, was simultaneously “banning source code dissemination and scientific expression.”
“Interacting with open-source code itself in a manner that does not include a forbidden Tornado Cash transaction is not illegal,” the Treasury announced today. “Without more information, U.S. sanctions rules would not bar anyone from copying open-source code and making it available online for others to view, discuss, teach, or integrate open-source code in written publications such as textbooks.
Other nations, notably the Netherlands, have claimed that developing code alone for a device like Tornado Cash “may be unlawful” if the code is written “solely to perform crimes.”
The Dutch authorities detained Alexey Pertsev, a 29-year-old developer, in connection with Tornado Cash days after the Treasury imposed restrictions on the cryptocurrency. He remains detained.