Cryptocurrency has long been painted as a way for criminals to get away without leaving any trace. And cryptocurrency enthusiasts have defended cryptocurrencies for a long time that that’s not the case. And now we have data from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) to back up the claim and proving that crypto enthusiasts were right.
During an interview with Bloomberg, DEA special agent Lilita Infante said that the criminal activity accounts for approximately 10 percent of on-chain bitcoin transactions. This number went as high as 90 percent in 2013 when the dark web marketplace Silk Road was still online before it was taken by the U.S. government.
But there is a distinction about what she said. She does not mean that there are fewer criminals using bitcoin to fund their illegal activities. By 10 percent, she meant that the ratio has rapidly shrunk as cryptocurrencies have matured into a more mainstream asset class. Although, the volume of criminal transactions has grown.
“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,” Infante told to Bloomberg.
Quebec’s government also published a report in which they said that bitcoin’s reputation as a black market asset is not the reality. In fact, it is the opposite.
Here’s what the report said:
“Bitcoin is not above the law, nor is it a magnet for illicit transactions: it forms only a tiny part of the criminal money circulating around the planet. The reason: it is less attractive for anyone who wants to make transactions without leaving a trace.”
And that is true. One cannot have a transaction on the Bitcoin network without leaving any traces. And while you might be able to get more privacy than the traditional methods of transacting, and those transactions are not uncensorable by the government, that does not mean that the law enforcement agencies cannot analyze the blockchain data to trace criminal activity.
That is exactly how the Russian army officers were indicted.
In fact, Infante said that blockchain actually gives the law enforcement agencies a lot of information to identify people. And she wants the criminals to keep using bitcoin because that will make the DEA’s job easier to track them down.
But there are other cryptocurrencies like monero and zcash that might be used by criminals because these are privacy-centric cryptocurrencies. But these cryptocurrencies are currently too small to carry out huge transactions.