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Crypto Is Still Used as Drug Money? Elizabeth Warren Issues Warning

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The increased use of cryptocurrencies in the international fentanyl trafficking trade raised concerns for Elizabeth Warren as well as the US government. Around 81,800 deaths were recorded in 2022, and overdoses of opioids emerged as the primary reason behind them.

Digital assets, including Bitcoin (BTC), Ethereum (ETH), and Tron (TRX), are widely used in the drug trafficking network, as per the Chainalysis report.          

Elizabeth Warren’s Concern over the Fentanyl Trafficking Trade

According to a recent document by Warren on May 29, the role of cryptocurrencies surged among drug traffickers for the international fentanyl trafficking trade. Drug traffickers are using digital assets to grow their businesses and launder their ill-gotten gains.

BTC, ETH, and TRX were widely used cryptocurrencies for the fentanyl trafficking trade. When writing, BTC was trading at $68,155.50, ETH was hovering at $3,730.77, and TRX was standing at$0.1119.   

Elizabeth Warren

US Senate Final Letter I Source: Senate Gov

The traffickers transacted over $30 Million in crypto payments as of May 2023. Deaths due to opioid overdose spiked to 56% from 2019 to 2020 and involved activities like suicide, motor-related accidents, and cancer. 

Over the last decade, cryptocurrency has emerged as a major player in the global fentanyl trade. Moreover, China was reported as a leading producer of fentanyl precursors.

The drug traffickers had used over $30 Million in crypto payments as of May 2023. As per the investigation by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), over 90 chain-based companies accepted 90% of crypto payments for fentanyl precursor supply.        

To combat and eliminate the use of digital assets in drug trafficking, the DEA, the Department of the Treasury, the Department of Justice (DOJ), and other federal agencies have implemented initiatives.   

Following this, the Director of National Drug Control Policy and the Administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration were requested to respond to a few questions by June 14, 2024.  

Warren’s Previous Calls For Closing Crypto Loopholes Fueling Fentanyl Trade   

However, it is not the first time Elizabeth Warren has discussed the increased use of cryptocurrencies for illegal use or the fentanyl trade. 

In May 2023, Warren called for crypto’s role in catalyzing the fentanyl crisis. Moreover, the Digital Asset Anti-Money Laundering Act was announced to close the loopholes in the anti-money laundering rules.  

The initiative was supported by Elizabeth Rosenberg, Assistant Secretary for Terrorist Financing and Financial Crimes, and would help crack down on crypto-enabling Chinese drug suppliers and drug cartels.   

The Act would include the Bank Secrecy Act (BSA) responsibilities, the investigation of “unhosted” digital wallets, restrictions on digital asset mixers for transactions, etc.    

Crypto Inflow in Global Fentanyl Sales Between July 2015 and February 2024

Between 2018 and 2023, a sudden surge in money inflows to chemical precursor shops was recorded. As per the Chainalysis report, drug traffickers were more active in 2020 and 2022.   

Elizabeth Warren

Money inflows to chemical precursor shops I Source: Chainalysis  

In 2020 and 2021, the money inflows for fentanyl precursors supply crossed $7 Million, and the associated wallet address received over $37.8 Million worth of cryptocurrency between 2018 and 2023.   

Moreover, after December 2022, a drop was recorded in the utilization of cryptocurrency in the fentanyl precursors trade.    

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