Crypto laundering saw a decrease of 30% in 2023


  • Crypto money laundering decreased by 30% in 2023, with illicit addresses sending $22.2 billion in crypto to laundering services.
  • The drop in laundering activity outpaced the overall decrease in transaction volume.

2023 painted a rather unusual picture—a 30% plunge in crypto money laundering activities. Quite the headline, isn’t it? Now, before you go raising your eyebrows in disbelief or nodding in approval, let’s dissect this whole phenomenon. How did we get here?

The Murky Waters of Crypto Transactions

In the crypto industry, money laundering has always been the dark art of making ill-gotten gains look as clean as a whistle. Imagine this: criminals, decked out in their digital cloaks, darting through the blockchain, trying to wash their dirty crypto without leaving a trace. They’ve got their tools of the trade—intermediary services like mixers, instant exchangers, and those oh-so-convenient DeFi protocols, all set up to blur the lines between their shady past and a seemingly spotless present.

Then there’s the grand finale, the fiat off-ramping services. Picture a bustling marketplace where digital currencies turns into cold, hard cash. Centralized exchanges are the usual suspects, but let’s not forget the underbelly of P2P exchanges, gambling dens, and those nondescript crypto ATMs. It’s a diverse ecosystem, each with its role in the laundering saga, from the high and mighty centralized platforms wielding the power to freeze suspicious funds, to the autonomous DeFi protocols that play the oblivious hosts to these transactions.

The 2023 Crypto Laundering Trendsetter

Now, onto the meat of the matter—2023’s crypto laundering escapades. A recent report from Chainalysis says the total crypto sent packing to launder-friendly services took a nosedive from $31.5 billion in 2022 to a somewhat less staggering $22.2 billion. Some might say it’s the crypto world catching a breath, a dip in transactions both legit and not-so-legit. But here’s the kicker: the decline in laundering was notably steeper than the overall transaction downturn. A whopping 29.5% drop, outpacing the 14.9% fall in total crypto transactions. Quite the trendsetter, wouldn’t you say?

Centralized exchanges, those behemoths of the crypto exchange world, stayed at the top of the food chain, gobbling up the lion’s share of funds from illicit addresses. Yet, the landscape is shifting under our feet. The once-dominant role of illicit services is dwindling, while DeFi protocols are creeping up, thanks to their growth spurt. However, their transparency is a double-edged sword, making them less than ideal hideouts for the laundering crowd.

The year also saw a shuffle in the deck of service types used for laundering. A slight dip in funds moving to illicit services and a nudge up for gambling services and bridge protocols. It seems even in the shadowy world of crypto crime, diversity is key.

But let’s zoom in a bit more, shall we? The plot thickens when examining specific criminal activities. The use of cross-chain bridges by those with sticky fingers, especially for funds of dubious origins, spiked dramatically. Meanwhile, ransomware aficionados found a new playground in gambling platforms, and bridges became a hotspot for laundering activities.

Peering closer into the world of fiat off-ramps, it’s clear that while there are myriad options for turning crypto into cash, the bulk of laundering activities prefer to stick to a handful of services. In 2023, a staggering 71.7% of all illicit funds made their way to just five services. Yet, on the individual deposit address front, the concentration of laundering activities showed signs of dispersing, perhaps a cunning move to fly under the radar of law enforcement and eagle-eyed exchange compliance teams.

When it comes to crypto laundering, sophistication varies wildly. Some criminals opt for the brute force approach, sending funds directly to exchanges with the finesse of a bull in a china shop. Others, like the infamous Lazarus Group, exhibit a masterclass in laundering finesse, employing a mix of mixers, bridge protocols, and an ever-evolving toolkit to stay one step ahead of the game.

Disclaimer: The information provided is not trading advice. Cryptopolitan.com holds no liability for any investments made based on the information provided on this page. We strongly recommend independent research and/or consultation with a qualified professional before making any investment decision.

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Jai Hamid

Jai Hamid is a passionate writer with a keen interest in blockchain technology, the global economy, and literature. She dedicates most of her time to exploring the transformative potential of crypto and the dynamics of worldwide economic trends.

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