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Data from blockchain analysis company TRM Labs shows that there was a drop in the use of cryptocurrencies for illicit activities in 2023. According to the company, criminals moved almost US$35 billion in cryptocurrencies last year.

Although high, the number was 9% lower than that recorded in 2022. In this sense, the report, entitled “The Illicit Crypto Economy” confirms the historical downward trend in the use of cryptocurrencies for illicit purposes.

Division of crimes

The amount of US$35 billion concerns all crimes committed using cryptocurrencies. Of this total, around a third corresponds to scams and fraud. Even with the drop, TRM points out that the value is substantially higher than existing estimates from other companies in the sector.

Chainalysis, for example, released its crime report in January 2024 and placed the value of crimes committed with cryptocurrencies at US$24 billion. TRM data shows that the figure was more than US$ 10 billion above that. In 2022, the company points out that the figure will reach almost US$40 billion.

Regulatory pressure appears to have resulted in a drop in the volumes of stolen funds exposed to sanctions. The report said that the US alone “has tripled the number of entities and individuals linked to crypto crimes subject to sanctions.”

Hacker groups linked to North Korea, such as Lazarus, stole 30% less than in 2022. Hacker revenues overall fell by more than 50%, reaching US$1.8 billion, compared to US$3.7 billion in 2022.

Drugs and Deep Web

The TRM report also highlighted the use of cryptocurrencies in purchasing drugs and other illicit substances. The main one is fentanyl, a drug that has become a public health issue in the United States. But the use of cryptocurrencies to acquire the drug fell by 50% in volume between 2023 and 2022.

However, supplier sales increased by more than 97% year-over-year, from $16 million to $33 million.

Another fact that grew was the sales of illicit drugs on Deep Web markets. These operations increased by US$300 and generated US$1.6 billion in 2022, compared to US$1.3 billion in 2022.

The report said that nearly half of all illicit transaction volume occurred on the Tron blockchain (45% in 2023, up from 41% in 2022). As for stablecoin usage, USDT had the largest share of illegal volume at $19.3 billion, compared to Ethereum (24%) and Bitcoin (18%).

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