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Cryptogambling / Stablecoins outpace Bitcoin for illicit transactions in 2023

Stablecoins outpace Bitcoin for illicit transactions in 2023

Publish Date: 19/01/2024
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Stablecoins became the preferred option for illicit transactions in 2022 and 2023, as cybercriminals looked for alternatives to using Bitcoin, according to Chainalysis’ recent report on crypto crime.

Criminals favored Bitcoin from 2018 to 2021, but in the following years, stablecoins became the primary choice for illicit transactions.

In 2023, Chainalysis reported that over $24.2 billion was sent to illicit crypto wallet addresses, including those associated with sanctions, terrorist financing and scams.

Cryptocurrencies enable global money transfers outside the traditional financial system. The underlying blockchain technology records transactions. Senders and receivers are identified solely by their wallet addresses, composed of strings and numbers.

Chainalysis said that the $24.2 billion figure is likely an underestimate and will increase as more illicit addresses are identified. Additionally, the firm doubled its 2022 estimate from $20.6 billion to $39.6 billion.

Chainalysis data focuses solely on crypto-related crime. It emphasizes that determining the volume of cryptocurrency from non-crypto-related crime, like its use in drug trafficking payments, is impossible based solely on blockchain data.

Instead, Chainanalysis counted crypto sent to wallet addresses identified as illicit, plus the volume of funds stolen in crypto hacks.

Chainalysis reported that sanctioned entities and jurisdictions contributed $14.9 billion to the illicit transaction volume in 2023, making up 61.5 percent of the total measured for the year.

The majority of this total amount originated from crypto services under U.S. sanctions or situated in jurisdictions that are also sanctioned, where U.S. sanctions are not enforced.

Chainalysis reported that revenue from crypto scams and hacking declined in 2023. However, revenues from ransomware and darknet markets witnessed an increase.

Various other types of illicit addresses were identified in the report, including those linked to terrorist financing, cybercrime and child abuse material.

U.S. authorities take action against Crypto firms over illicit money flows

Last year, Deputy Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo cautioned cryptocurrency companies that they risk being disconnected from the wider U.S. economy if they do not prevent and report illicit money flows.

Speaking at a Blockchain Association event, Adeyemo emphasized the need for crypto firms to take stronger measures against illicit finance, highlighting the overall risk it poses to the U.S.

“Our actions over the last year send a clear message: we will not hesitate to bring to bear tools across government to protect our national security,” Adeyemo said.

In October, the Biden administration requested new legislation to empower the Treasury to oversee crypto marketplaces used by entities deemed illicit by the U.S. government, as stated by Adeyemo.

The U.S. government imposed sanctions to disrupt funding for the Palestinian militant group Hamas following deadly attacks in Israel. The sanctions targeted a Gaza-based cryptocurrency exchange and other entities.

In November, Binance chief Changpeng Zhao pleaded guilty to violating U.S. anti-money laundering laws. The settlement reached was $4.3 billion, and as a result, he stepped down as CEO of the world’s largest crypto exchange, acknowledging mistakes.

A United Nations report on Monday highlighted that unregulated cryptocurrency exchanges are now fundamental elements of the financial structure employed by organized crime in Southeast Asia.

The report shows that illegal online casinos have broadened their activities to involve cyber fraud and cryptocurrency laundering. There is significant evidence pointing to organized crime’s impact in casino complexes, special economic zones and border regions.

The report says that criminals in Southeast Asia favor the Tether (USDT) stablecoin on the Tron blockchain due to its stability, user-friendliness, anonymity and low fees.

It highlights that Local crypto exchanges contribute to money laundering due to notable shortcomings in crime tracking on the blockchain, false reporting by these exchanges, and the common practice of wash trading.

Wash trading artificially increases crypto transaction volumes, making it harder to detect illicit transactions.

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