Cryptocurrency – the best tool for money-launderers

Over the last decade there have been plenty of news stories reflecting the narrative that cryptocurrency is the criminals best-friend. From online drug trafficking at the silk road marketplace, to billions being laundered through bitcoin, to cryptocurrency being the payment form of choice to enable and facilitate ransomware.

The narrative though is changing. Chainanalysis, a blockchain analysis, in their 2021 report suggest that the criminal share of activity in cryptocurrency is declining rapidly – from 2.1% in 2019 to 0.34% in 2020. With some exceptions, increasing regulation of the area and the inherent traceability of most cryptocurrencies means that they could quickly become law enforcement’s best-friend.

A pile of bitcoin

Today, 13 July, in the UK the police announced a seizure of £180m of bitcoin as part of a money laundering investigation, with this seizure hot on the heals of a confiscation in June.

To put this into context, in its annual threat assessment the NCA reported £172 million denied to suspected criminals between April 2019 and March 2020 as a result of defence against money laundering requests. Or the reported £1.6bn of criminal assets recovered between April 2010 and March 2018 – that’s around £200m per year.

So perhaps cryptocurrency really is the best tool for money launderers – to get caught.