The US Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) has just announced new initiatives to reduce the flow of the powerful synthetic opioid fentanyl into the United States. As part of the measures detailed, the agency identifies cryptocurrency like Bitcoin as one of the payment methods used to finance the trade.
A series of new advisories posted to Whitehouse.gov sets out to help private sector entities identify and report suspicious activity that may be related to the illicit trade of the painkiller. The advisories are divided into four categories: manufacturing, marketing, movement, and money.
Illegal Cryptocurrency Trades With Bitcoin, Altcoins
In the section dedicated to money related to the illicit trade of fentanyl, ONDCP identifies a range of different payment methods used by participants in the global opioid market. Financing the trades are money service businesses (MSBs), convertible virtual currencies (Bitcoin, Bitcoin Cash, Ether, and Monero are all named explicitly), various trade-based money laundering schemes, and the smuggling of hard cash, according to the agency.
ONDCP calls on those receiving cryptocurrency transactions believed to be associated with the illegal narcotics trade to report a variety of data related to digital currency payments. This includes wallet addresses, user account information, details of any suspicious transactions like hashes and history, any data relating to logins made by the user (IP addresses, etc.,) and information regarding the potential use of a mobile device.
According to the US government, cryptocurrencies are mostly used to buy fentanyl off either the dark web or directly from online vendors using phone calls, video messaging, or instant messaging to communicate. It also identifies digital currency as being used to fund domestic as well as international deals.
However, the entire global market is worth $400 billion, and just $72 billion of that total figure is attributed to cryptocurrency-facilitated drug trafficking. Given that many digital currencies feature a public ledger of transactions along with the fact that blockchain forensics firms like Chainalysis are continually improving their surveillance and wallet identification methods, it seems unlikely that the non-private cryptocurrencies will ever account for the majority of the illicit trade.
Not Convincing Enough
That may not be enough to dissuade Donald Trump and his administration from going after Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies under the guise of protecting the nation from an epidemic often believed to be of the government’s own creation. Many critics of the so-called War on Drugs argue that the prohibition of medicines, like cannabis, used for thousands of years by humans, and the pushing of chemical painkillers in their place have driven many people suffering from a variety of diseases to a life of opioid dependency.
Of course, the central government usually appears conveniently blind to such ironies. Given that the president of the United States has already expressed his disdain for digital currencies, it seems entirely plausible that the Trump administration would come after the threat to US dollar hegemony that is Bitcoin, and by extension, the rest of cryptocurrency under the premise of protecting US citizens from international opioid traffickers.
What do you think about cryptocurrencies being labeled in the new advisories about fentanyl? Do you believe a US-led cryptocurrency clampdown is coming?
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