A viral conspiracy theory circulating across social media platforms is now claiming that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has invested billions in failed cryptocurrency exchange firm FTX and using it to launder money to the U.S. Democratic Party.
FTX announced on Nov. 11 that it had filed for bankruptcy and that its CEO and founder, Sam Bankman-Fried, had resigned after a deal fell through for it to be acquired by the larger crypto exchange Binance. The firm also reported that it was short billions of dollars to repay all of its customers.
After the company collapsed, the conservative website the Gateway Pundit published a story claiming that the U.S. sent Ukraine “tens of billions of dollars” which was then laundered back to Democrats using FTX cryptocurrency.
“We have information that the tens of billions of dollars going to Ukraine were actually laundered back to the US to corrupt Democrats and elites using FTX cryptocurrency. Now the money is gone and FTX is bankrupt,” the Gateway Pundit wrote.
Days after the Gateway Pundit’s story went live, Fox News commentator Jesse Watters claimed that Ukrainian President Zelensky used the U.S. aid money and “invested” in the failed cryptocurrency firm as part of what he speculated was a “money laundering” scheme to benefit the Democratic Party in the midterm elections.
Ukraine previously partnered with FTX when it launched a fundraising website where people could donate cryptocurrency to support the country amid the war. However, USA Today said multiple people involved in the project rejected the “money laundering” conspiracy theory.
Alex Bornyakov, deputy minister of digital transformation of Ukraine on IT industry development, also wrote a tweet where he called the conspiracy theory “nonsense” and reiterated that the Ukrainian government “never invested funds into FTX.”
Mark Cancian, a senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, also told PolitiFact that the U.S. aid goes through third parties, including contractors of weapons and military equipment, instead of directly to the Ukrainian government.
In addition, the U.S. aid to Ukraine is not provided in cash. There are also agreements and mechanisms in place to ensure that the aid is used for verified expenses, FactCheck.org reported, citing an emailed statement from a State Department spokesperson.