A DEA special agent, Lilita Infante, has reportedly admitted that illegal activity is no longer bitcoin’s primary use. She is part of the 10-person Cyber Investigative Task Force, a team focusing on dark web and crypto-related investigations. The group collaborates with other units of the Department of Justice including the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
Infante explained to Bloomberg on Tuesday that five years ago when she started investigating cases involving bitcoin, “her analysis of blockchain data showed criminal activity was behind about 90 percent of transactions in the cryptocurrency.” However, she is now seeing the opposite:
The ratio of legal to illegal activity in bitcoin has flipped…Now, illegal activity has shrunk to about 10 percent and speculation has become the dominant driver.
“That doesn’t mean criminals stopped using bitcoin,” the publication noted. While the “total transaction volume associated with illegal uses has surged since 2013,” Infante reiterated:
The majority of transactions are used for price speculation.
Contradicting Popular Opinion
Mainstream media have often described bitcoin as being used by criminals such as for money laundering and purchasing drugs and other illicit goods.
According to Matthew Allen, ICE Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Assistant Director, “HSI agents are increasingly encountering virtual currency… in the course of their investigations.” In a written testimony for a Senate Committee hearing on modernizing anti-money laundering (AML) laws in November last year, he wrote that among cryptocurrencies encountered were “anonymity enhancing cryptocurrencies (AECs).”
In June, a high-ranking official of the U.S. Secret Service urged Congress to consider additional legislation to address potential challenges related to anonymity-enhanced cryptocurrencies. He claimed that some cryptocurrencies “have been used extensively for illicit activity.” In the same month, the House of Representatives unanimously passed a bill to help prevent the illicit use of cryptocurrencies.
Citing the popular perceived use of bitcoin for illicit activities, Bloomberg emphasized:
Infante’s findings contradict the popular perception.
Furthermore, the special agent explained that privacy-focused cryptocurrencies like monero and zcash are not liquid enough, so “the overwhelming majority of dealings are still in bitcoin,” the publication conveyed. She was further quoted claiming that while these cryptocurrencies more anonymous than bitcoin, “we still have ways of tracking them.’’
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