By Sanjeev Sharma
New Delhi, April 16 | The US Treasury Department has sanctioned Pakistani IT firm, Second Eye Solutions (SES), and its owners and employees for acting as a proxy for a Russian troll entity which interfered in the American elections.
The Treasury has targeted Yevgeny Prigozhin’s network in Africa as part of the sanctions announced against the Russian government and entities.
Prigozhin is the Russian financier of the Internet Research Agency (IRA), the Russian troll entity that the Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) designated in 2018 for interfering in the 2016 presidential election.
The Treasury has sanctioned SES, also known as Forwarderz, which is an organisation that specialises in creating and selling fraudulent identities and has assisted the IRA in concealing its identity to evade sanctions.
Since at least 2012, the SES has engaged in a scheme to provide digital photographs of fake documents including passports, driving licenses, bank statements, utility bills, and national identity documents.
SES markets these fake documents for use to verify online accounts, including money service business accounts and social media accounts.
In 2017, the IRA purchased 15 fraudulent US driver licenses images from SES. The purchased licenses were used as supporting documents for online social media accounts opened by the IRA, as per the sanctions documents.
Pakistani nationals Mohsin Raza, Mujtaba Raza, Syed Hasnain, Muhammad Hayat, Syed Raza, and Shahzad Ahmed are the owners and employees who were instrumental in processing the payments for fraudulent identities.
Fresh Air Farm House, Like Wise, and MK Softtech are four Pakistani front companies used to launder SES’ profits.
The fraudulent documents produced by SES are likely used at many online services to evade sanctions and anti-money laundering (AML) screening protocols beyond what OFAC has been able to identify.
SES advertises that their fraudulent documents may be used on social media, freelancing job postings, and commerce platforms.
As part of Thursday’s listing of SES on OFAC’s Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons List (SDN List), the Office is also identifying digital currency addresses used by SES to fulfil customer orders in order to help assist financial institutions, and their third-party identity verification services, in identifying customers on their platforms who have purchased fraudulent identity documents.
Known SES digital currency addresses have received over $2.5 million in digital currencies over more than 26,900 transactions from 2013 to March 2021.
SES was designated for acting on behalf of the IRA.
Mohsin Raza, Mujtaba Raza, Seyed Hasnain, Muhammad Hayat, Syed Raza, and Shahzad Ahmed were designated for acting for or on behalf of SES.
Fresh Air Farm House, Like Wise, and MK Softtech were designated for being owned or controlled by Mohsin Raza and Mujtaba Raza.
(Sanjeev Sharma can be reached at email@example.com)