Recently, Lilita Infante of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration [DEA] made a statement regarding the relation between Bitcoin and illegal activities. She stated that the transaction volume of Bitcoin used for illegal or criminal activities has increased since 2013, but the ratio of its usage in criminal activities has come down to 10% from an inflated 90%, highlighting speculative market as the dominant activity.
Infante has given the statement in correspondence with the statistics borne out of the cases that she has handled at the DEA across a time span of 5 years. The DEA official is a special agent at the organization and is one of the 10-person Cyber Investigative Task Force. Furthermore, Infante gave a statement in an office interview, stating:
“The volume has grown tremendously, the amount of transactions and the dollar value has grown tremendously over the years in criminal activity, but the ratio has decreased. The majority of transactions are used for price speculation.”
A permanent case for DEA for years has been the dark web. Dark web specifically operates on cryptocurrencies and is exclusively known for its criminal activities in the trade of goods such as drugs, among other things. Due to the faster, cheaper and private nature of cryptocurrency transactions, they have become ubiquitous in illegal cross-border money laundering cases as well, according to the DEA agent.
She also added that the authorities are utilizing the blockchain technology against these criminals, which makes the whole equation tough to win for law-offenders. This is possible as most of the cryptocurrency blockchains [apart from privacy coins such as Monero, Zcash, among others] are public and immutable.
Last year, the underworld dropped Bitcoin to adopt privacy coins, specially Monero, as their main means of transaction. On this, Europol, the law-enforcement agency of the European Union wrote in a report:
“…other cryptocurrencies such as Monero, Ethereum and Zcash are gaining popularity within the digital underground.”
One of the ways to make a coin’s transaction anonymous is to use the zero-proof protocol that restricts the display of all transactional details, such as the parties involved, the addresses and the amount transacted.
However, according to Infante, although some of the cryptocurrencies maintain more privacy than Bitcoin, the authorities still have ways of tracking down the traffickers and other underworld parties involved in such transactions.
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