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The US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has alleged that a global drug cartel trading meth and cocaine used the popular cryptocurrency exchange Binance to launder $15 to $40 million in illicit profits.
Forbes, citing a search warrant, reported that the DEA launched an investigation into the cartel’s use of Binance in 2020, which eventually led to the arrest of Mexican citizen Carlos Fong Echavarria, who pleaded guilty to money laundering and drug trafficking. Binance reportedly cooperated with the investigation and helped identify an additional, as-yet-unnamed account holder who allegedly purchased nearly $42 million worth of cryptocurrencies through the platform.
Binance Senior Director of Investigations, Matthew Price, said Forbes that the blockchain was the key. “This is actually an example of where blockchain transaction transparency works against criminal actors,” he said. “The bad guys leave a permanent record of what they do.”
Reuters has reported that Binance itself may be facing an investigation from the US Department of Justice (DOJ), but a company spokesperson said questions about any kind of DOJ investigation were “fueled by false innuendo”.
Drug cartels and other criminal organizations are on the rise rotated to cryptocurrencies to launder their illicit profits. Cryptocurrencies can facilitate the movement of large sums of money across borders and obscure the origin of the funds. However, cash remains the preferred method of payment for most criminals. While the use of cryptocurrencies for illegal activities is a growing concern, most crypto transactions remain legal and legitimate.