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Cross-Chain Crypto Laundering Reaches $7B: Elliptic

2 mins
Updated by Kyle Baird
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In Brief

  • Elliptic reports that cybercriminals prefer laundering illicit funds through DEXs, cross-chain bridges, and coin swaps.
  • The firm's latest calculation of $7 billion indicates that cross-chain crime is rising faster than initial predictions.
  • The rise in cross-chain activities is attributed to criminals' preference for features like anonymity and stability.
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Crypto risk management firm Elliptic revealed the total amount of illicit funds laundered through decentralized exchanges (DEXs), cross-chain bridges, and coin swap services has soared to $7 billion.

“Our latest figures suggest that it is fast becoming the preferred money laundering method for a range of cybercrimes,” the report stated.

Cross-Crime Crypto Laundering Exceeds Predicted Growth

A recent report shows that the latest data has exceeded Elliptic’s earlier predictions:

“We estimated then that this $4.1 figure would rise to $6.5 billion by the end of 2023 and $10.5 billion by 2025. Our latest calculation of $7 billion, however, shows that cross-chain crime is rising at a faster rate than predicted.”

Crypto money laundering predominantly involves the act of swapping cryptos between different tokens and blockchains, often referred to as cross-chain criminal activity.

The state of cross-chain crime by predicate offense and service used. Source: Elliptic
The state of cross-chain crime by predicate offense and service used. Source: Elliptic

Criminals use this method to conceal funds acquired through various means, including scams and crypto thefts. 

Additionally, it acknowledges that its earlier estimate of reaching a total of $6.5 billion by the year-end may no longer hold true. This is due to the rates currently exceeding the initial predictions.

Elliptic highlights two factors contributing to the rise in cross-chain criminal activities.

Firstly, criminals are increasingly gravitating towards cryptos other than Bitcoin. Particularly cryptos that offer features like anonymity and stability. Stablecoins pegged to government-backed currencies were noted as an increasingly popular choice because of this reason.

BeInCrypto previously reported that Bitcoin’s share in criminal blockchain activity has significantly reduced over the past few years. In 2022, it constituted 19% of the illicit volume within blockchain activity, in contrast to 2020, when it comprised 97%.

According to Elliptic’s former head of technical crypto advisory, Tara Annison, criminals favor Tether (USDT) and USD Coin (USDC) because they find them easier to acquire.

At the time of publication, Bitcoin’s price is $27,821.

Bitcoin Price Chart 1 Month. Source: BeInCrypto
Bitcoin Price Chart 1 Month. Source: BeInCrypto

However, the report indicates that criminals are adopting cross-chain strategies to outwit authorities. This is to keep their ill-gotten gains hidden and to stay ahead of law enforcement:

“Furthermore, as we revealed elsewhere recently, enforcement actions such as seizures and sanctions are increasingly targeting traditional frontiers of crypto criminality. This is causing a so-called “crime displacement” effect, in which fraudsters and criminals are turning to cross-chain crime as an alternative.”

BeInCrypto previously reported that the rise of cross-chain crime is a new but swiftly growing trend. During the first half of 2022, there was a notable 58% surge in thefts facilitated by cross-chain bridges when compared to the same period in 2021.

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Ciaran Lyons
Ciaran is a cryptocurrency journalist based in Sydney, Australia. He particularly enjoys writing about CBDC developments and the practical implementations of cryptocurrency in real-world scenarios. He has also appeared across major television networks in Australia including Channel Ten, Channel Nine and SBS TV. Prior to his foray into cryptocurrency, Ciaran worked as a presenter on national radio station Triple J.