Cryptocurrencies have increasingly become a preferred payment method in the global illegal drug trade, with a recent spotlight on their role in the illicit fentanyl business. A detailed blockchain analytics powerhouse Elliptic investigation unravels how cryptocurrency is aiding the multi-billion-dollar drug crisis.
The Expanding Web of Cryptocurrency in Fentanyl Trading
Emerging data reveals a staggering 450% annual growth in cryptocurrency payments made to fentanyl precursor suppliers since 2021. Bitcoin transactions lead the charge at $19 million, followed closely by Tether (USDT) on Tron at $9 million, and trailing with USDT on Ethereum at $4 million.
Elliptic’s groundbreaking research indicates that these fentanyl suppliers amassed over $32 million through the top three cryptocurrencies. In the grander scheme, the potential street value of the illicit drug market – encompassing not just fentanyl but also methamphetamine and ecstasy – might exceed a whopping $50 billion.
While traditional payments persist, the significant role of cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, Ethereum, Tron, and Monero can’t be ignored. Elliptic’s findings spotlighted 80 diverse groups linked to 144 unique cryptocurrency addresses across these blockchains, tied to the fentanyl precursor suppliers.
Beyond the Digital Realm: The Ground Reality
Once these precursor chemicals are acquired using cryptocurrencies, they’re stealthily shipped to Mexico. Bypassing rigorous customs checks and sidestepping law enforcement, these illegal shipments enter various Mexican regions. Mexico City and states like Querétaro and Jalisco are on the radar. The latter, in particular, operates under the shadow of the infamous Cartel Jalisco Nueva Generación (CJNG).
Digging deeper into the supply chain, Elliptic’s report offers insights into how these suppliers distribute chemicals pivotal for producing a gamut of illegal drugs. Accepting cryptocurrency payments makes these transactions more accessible and harder to trace.
The confluence of cryptocurrency-facilitated drug trade‘s digital and physical realms poses a daunting challenge to global law enforcement agencies. As the intersection of blockchain and illicit trade becomes more intertwined, it demands immediate attention and action to curb the menace.
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