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Sen. Warren Demands Answers on Efforts to Combat Crypto Use in Fentanyl Drug Trafficking

Sujha Sundararajan
Last updated: | 1 min read

U.S. Senators Bill Cassidy, a Louisiana Republican, and Elizabeth Warren, a Massachusetts Democrat, have demanded the Biden Administration to update on the measures taken to combat illicit use of cryptos in fentanyl drug trafficking.

The bipartisan Senators wrote a letter, Wednesday, seeking immediate update on “actions to crack down drug traffickers’ exploitation of crypto.”

Per blockchain analytics firm Elliptic’s 2023 report, precursors manufacture most fentanyl trafficked into the US, imported from China. Furthermore, 90% of the fentanyl precursors accepted cryptocurrency payments.

“Cryptocurrency wallets used by these companies have received thousands of payments, totaling just over $27 million. The number of transactions has increased by 450% year-on-year,” the study revealed.

Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid, has been the cause of several deaths in the US among 18-45 age, the Senators said.

Cryptos: A Primary Tool to Launder Money in Illegal Drug Trade

Criminals and drug traffickers find that the digital age blocks traditional ways of handling and exchanging funds. As a result, they turn to cryptos as the primary means to move money in exchange for illegal drug trade.

“Cryptocurrency has played an increasingly prominent role in the global fentanyl trade over the past decade,” the letter stressed.

The asset class has been a primary mode of payment both in manufacturing and trafficking of fentanyl, and both parties recognize it as a threat.

The White House, in 2022, released a fact sheet, announcing new anti-money laundering enforcement in the digital asset ecosystem.

This was in recognition that “digital assets have facilitated the rise of ransomware cybercriminals; narcotics sales and money laundering for drug trafficking organizations; and the funding of activities of rogue regimes.”

In Feb 2023, the Drug Enforcement Agency seized $1.8 million in cryptocurrencies from six Binance accounts tied to drug traffickers.

“While these developments are welcome, we seek additional information about the steps your offices are taking to disrupt illicit drug actors’ use of crypto.”

They have requested the Drug Enforcement Administration and Office of National Drug Control Policy to respond what actions are taken with regard to crypto’s role in fentanyl trafficking since December 2021.

The Senators have also demanded answers on current challenges and the Administration’s future initiatives in this regard.