The Increasing Use of Cryptocurrencies by Chinese Drug Precursor Manufacturers

The Increasing Use of Cryptocurrencies by Chinese Drug Precursor Manufacturers

The latest report from blockchain intelligence firm TRM Labs has shed light on the significant increase in cryptocurrency deposits into crypto addresses associated with Chinese drug precursor manufacturers. In just the first four months of 2024, these deposits more than doubled compared to the same period in 2023. This alarming trend raises concerns about the growing use of digital currencies in illicit activities.

Bitcoin continues to reign as the dominant cryptocurrency utilized for transactions by Chinese drug precursor manufacturers, accounting for around 60% of the total payment volume. TRON blockchain follows with approximately 30% of transactions, while Ethereum is used for roughly 6% of transactions. This data underscores the prevalence of Bitcoin in facilitating these illegal activities.

The report also revealed that a mere 11 manufacturers were responsible for over 70% of all crypto-denominated sales of drug precursors. These manufacturers receive funds from various sources, including unhosted wallets, cryptocurrency exchanges, and payment services. Their wallets are commonly hosted at exchanges, indicating the ease with which they are able to transact using cryptocurrencies.

Chinese drug precursor manufacturers appear to have a global reach, targeting countries like Canada, the Netherlands, Australia, Germany, and the United States. In addition, advertisements have been directed towards Russia and neighboring countries, particularly for mephedrone precursors. This highlights the widespread nature of the illicit drug trade facilitated by these manufacturers.

A U.S. congressional committee recently pointed out that the root cause of the fentanyl crisis in the United States can be traced back to the People’s Republic of China. China manufactures over 97% of the precursors used in the global illicit fentanyl trade, contributing significantly to the opioid crisis. The committee also highlighted China’s subsidization of the production of illicit fentanyl precursors, exacerbating the situation.

According to Elliptic, suppliers of fentanyl analogs and synthetic narcotics from China use cryptocurrencies, particularly Bitcoin, Ethereum, Tron, and Monero, to conduct transactions and facilitate fund transfers. This highlights the role of cryptocurrencies in enabling illegal activities by providing anonymity and ease of transactions for these suppliers.

The surge in cryptocurrency deposits into crypto addresses linked to Chinese drug precursor manufacturers underscores the growing use of digital currencies in illicit activities. This trend not only poses a threat to global efforts to combat drug trafficking but also sheds light on the need for greater regulation and oversight of cryptocurrency transactions to prevent their misuse in illegal activities.


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