A recent blockchain analytics firm Chainalysis report debunked prevailing narratives about cryptocurrency’s association with illicit activities. The study reveals that the vast majority, approximately 99.6%, of cryptocurrency transactions are used for legal purposes.
This revelation challenges concerns expressed by influential figures, such as JPMorgan Chase & Co. CEO Jamie Dimon, who have voiced worries about cryptocurrency’s role in illegal activities like tax avoidance, money laundering, and terrorism financing.
Significant decrease in illicit transactions
According to Chainalysis, the total value of cryptocurrency sent to illicit addresses experienced a substantial decrease from $39.6 billion in 2022 to $24.2 billion in 2023. The 2022 figure was somewhat inflated by $8.7 billion in FTX creditor claims following the collapse of Sam Bankman-Fried’s startup. This marks a notable decline in illicit activity within the crypto space.
Chainalysis’ findings indicate that illicit cryptocurrency transactions accounted for just 0.34% of all cryptocurrency volume in 2023, down from 0.42% in 2022 and a substantial drop from 1.3% in 2019. Contrary to popular perceptions, this data underscores the decreasing prevalence of illicit activities within the cryptocurrency ecosystem.
The report’s findings directly challenge public statements by prominent figures like Jamie Dimon. Despite concerns expressed by some business leaders and critics, the data suggests that cryptocurrency-related crime is not as widespread as previously thought.
It’s important to note that the figures presented in the Chainalysis report focus exclusively on funds stolen in crypto hacks and those directed to addresses identified as illicit. The report does not encompass funds derived from non-crypto native crime, potential market manipulation, or funds associated with crypto money laundering.
Comparison with the broader financial industry
Despite the decline in cryptocurrency-related crime, it remains relatively small compared to illicit activities within the broader financial industry. The Global Financial Crime Report by Nasdaq estimates that over $3.1 trillion in illicit funds circulated through the global financial system in 2023, with drug trafficking accounting for $782.9 billion, human trafficking for $346.7 billion, and terrorist financing for $11.5 billion.
These figures highlight that cryptocurrency-related crime is just a fraction of the larger global illicit finance landscape.
Evolving trends in cryptocurrency usage
The Chainalysis report also sheds light on the changing trends in cryptocurrency usage for illicit purposes. While Bitcoin had been the leading cryptocurrency used by cybercriminals until 2021 due to its high liquidity, its volume in illicit transactions has consistently decreased over the past five years. In its place, stablecoins, such as Tether, have emerged as prominent players in legitimate and illicit cryptocurrency activities.