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US Senator Warren Calls Out Crypto’s Role in Fentanyl Transactions

Sarah Wynn
Last updated: | 1 min read
Source: Screenshot of video via Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s YouTube page

US Sen. Elizabeth Warren called out cryptocurrency’s role in fentanyl drug transactions and pushed for her bill to combat money laundering during a congressional hearing on Wednesday.

The Massachusetts Democrat, and longstanding crypto critic, said her bill, the Digital Asset Anti-Money Laundering Act, will close loopholes “in our anti-money laundering rules and cuts off drugs suppliers and cartels from using crypto to fuel their illegal business.” 

“Crypto is helping fund the fentanyl trade. And we have the power to shut that down. It’s time,” Warren added during a Senate Banking Committee hearing.

Fentanyl and other synthetic opioids are the most common drugs involved in overdose deaths and over 150 people die every day from overdoses related to synthetic opioids like fentanyl, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  

China and Mexico are the primary source countries for fentanyl and fentanyl-related substances as of 2020, according to the US Drug Enforcement Administration. 

Warren asked Elizabeth Rosenberg, the Treasury Department’s assistant secretary for Terrorist Financing and Financial Crimes, about whether Chinese companies used crypto in illegal drug transactions. 

Rosenberg, who testified at the hearing, said yes.

“Unfortunately, that is a mode that some of these precursor manufacturers and illicit drug organizations have used,” Rosenberg said. 

Warren also cited figures from research firm Elliptic showing 90 Chinese suppliers sold “enough precursor drugs in exchange for crypto to produce $54 billion worth of fentanyl pills.”

“That is enough fentanyl to kill nearly 9 billion people, all paid for by crypto,” Warren said.

Warren’s stance on crypto 

Warren first introduced her Digital Asset Anti-Money Laundering Act late last year, which seeks to bring the crypto industry into compliance with the existing anti-money laundering while also countering terrorism financing. 

Warren has long criticized crypto, calling it an industry “that is built to favor scammers.”

Warren has also voiced concerns about bad actors in North Korea using crypto to evade sanctions in a hearing earlier this month.