Cryptocurrencies have made criminals richer and in 2021, criminals held $11 billion worth of funds with known illicit sources, compared to just $3 billion at the end of 2020, a new report has revealed.
As of the end of 2021, stolen funds account for 93 per cent of all criminal balances, at $9.8 billion.
Dark Net market funds are next at $448 million, followed by scams at $192 million, fraud shops at $66 million, and ransomware at $30 million, reports Blockchain data company Chainalysis.
Criminal balances also fluctuated throughout the year, from a low of $6.6 billion in July to a high of $14.8 billion in October.
“The fluctuations are a reminder of the importance of speed in cryptocurrency investigations, as criminal funds that have been successfully traced on the Blockchain can be liquidated quickly,” the report mentioned.
This year, their has been a large drop in criminal balances in February due to the US Department of Justice’s $3.6 billion seizure of Bitcoin stolen in the 2016 Bitfinex hack.
“Following that seizure, criminal balances currently stand at roughly $5 billion as of February 9, 2022,” the report noted.
Overall, Chainalysis has identified 4,068 criminal whales holding over $25 billion worth of cryptocurrency.
“Criminal whales represent 3.7 per cent of all cryptocurrency whales a” that is, private wallets holding over $1 million worth of cryptocurrency,” said the report.
In total, 1,333 criminal whales received between 25 per cent and 90 per cent of all funds from illicit addresses.
“Illicit funds received by criminal whales also come from more varied sources than the funds making up overall criminal balances,” the report added.
When it comes to the location of criminal whales, Russia, South Africa, Saudi Arabia and Iran top the list.
In a biggest-ever cryptocurrency haul, the US Department of Justice (DOJ) last week seized and recovered over 94,000 Bitcoins worth $3.6 billion, stolen from crypto exchange Bitfinex by a US-based entrepreneur couple in 2016.
The couple — Ilya Lichtenstein, 34, and Heather Morgan, 31 — faces charges of conspiring to launder money and to defraud the US government, facing up to 25 years in prison if convicted.