In a revealing report published by TRM Labs, it was discovered that the TRON network stood out in 2023, being responsible for a considerable share of 45% of the total volume of illicit activities in the cryptocurrency space. This percentage marks an increase compared to the previous year, where the network recorded 41% of illicit volume.

This year, TRON, under the leadership of businessman Justin Sun, not only maintained its predominant position in illegal activities compared to other major networks like Ethereum and Bitcoin, which accounted for 24% and 18% respectively, but also emerged as the preferred network for hackers, particularly those associated with North Korea. These criminals often use TRON to exchange stolen funds, mainly into USDT, which are then converted into fiat currency through high-volume over-the-counter (OTC) transactions.

The TRM Labs report, titled “The Illicit Crypto Economy,” also highlights the preference for the USDT stablecoin, issued by Tether Inc., in financing terrorism activities, representing more than $19 billion in illicit funds. In contrast, USD Coin (USDC) recorded significantly lower illicit volume, at just US$428.9 million.

Interestingly, while some categories of illicit finance in the cryptocurrency space have shown declines, darknet drug sales have experienced growth, from $1.3 billion in 2022 to $1.6 billion in 2023. Notably, the volume of Drug sales using the TRON network more than quadrupled during this period.

Cybercriminals’ choice of the TRON blockchain is attributed to its low gas fees, price stability and the perception that transactions are harder to track, although the latter is quickly becoming an outdated concept.

On a positive note, the report noted a 9% decrease in illicit activities in the cryptocurrency space in 2023, with total illicit funds falling to nearly $35 billion. Fraud and scams continue to make up a large portion of crypto-related crimes, although the proportion of illicit funds has decreased over the year.

This decline in illicit activities can be attributed to increased pressure from governments and law enforcement agencies. The report highlights a notable effort by the US, which has tripled the number of crypto crime-related entities and individuals subject to sanctions.


The views and opinions expressed by the author, or anyone mentioned in this article, are for informational purposes only and do not constitute financial, investment or other advice. Investing in or trading cryptocurrencies carries a risk of financial loss.


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