It appears that the most active buyers and sellers of digital currency within the Russian capitol are the Chinese merchants that participate in Moscow’s large wholesale bazaars. The retail turnover at these bazaars is close to $10 billion per month, and local authorities have shared that most of it is converted into cryptocurrencies and sent back to China to be exchanged for Yuan.

Moscow’s three biggest bazaars, Moskva, Sadovod, and Food City, bring in around ₽600 billion rubles each month, the equivalent of $10 billion. That’s close to a quarter of the retail turnover within the Russian Federation. Very little of that is deposited into bank accounts, according to Yuri Polupanov, head of the Central Bank’s Financial Monitoring and Currency Control Department. He has explained that 90% of the businesses there are owned by Chinese merchants and producers.

These retail centers are quite active in crypto trade. Russia’s Centrobank believes that Chinese traders convert almost all of their income into digital currency before sending it back home, where it is then exchanged to Yuan. Financial authorities have discovered that crypto exchange bureaus are also active there, with many of them registered as financial services providers. Discrepancies have been discovered between their accounting records and data collected remotely by the CBR.

Elina Sidorenko, head of a working group at the Duma tasked with assessing crypto circulation explains, “It’s no secret that Chinese merchants are using cryptocurrencies through anonymous wallets. But as soon as they are defined legally in the civil code, these financial flows will be easily controlled. It’s easier to track them than cash.”

Shady retail bazaars and flea markets have been going on in Russia for many years, and authorities have discovered many violations. Back in 2009, Moscow authorities shut down the “Cherkizovskiy” bazaar, which was one of the largest. The police discovered 6,000 containers of contraband valued at around $2 billion.