This Reuters Special Report documents the staggering amount of funding that cryptocurrencies have enabled for foreign enemies and criminals, and now NFTs are joining the party. Implementing strict Know Your Customer processes is the only way to mitigate this problem, and yet the growing sense of distrust in governments and business has driven people around the world to search for safe and anonymous places to keep their money:
“During this period, Binance processed transactions totalling at least $2.35 billion stemming from hacks, investment frauds and illegal drug sales, Reuters calculated from an examination of court records, statements by law enforcement and blockchain data, compiled for the news agency by two blockchain analysis firms. Two industry experts reviewed the calculation and agreed with the estimate.
Separately, crypto researcher Chainalysis, hired by U.S. government agencies to track illegal flows, concluded in a 2020 report that Binance received criminal funds totalling $770 million in 2019 alone, more than any other crypto exchange. Binance CEO Changpeng Zhao accused Chainalysis on Twitter of “bad business etiquette.”
Binance declined to make Zhao available for an interview. Responding to written questions, Chief Communications Officer Patrick Hillmann said Binance did not consider Reuters’ calculation to be accurate. He did not respond to requests to provide Binance’s own figures for the cases identified in this article. He said Binance was building “the most sophisticated cyber forensics team on the planet” and was seeking to “further improve our ability to detect illegal crypto activity on our platform.”
As Reuters reported in January, Binance kept weak money-laundering checks on its users until mid-2021, despite concerns raised by senior company figures starting at least three years earlier. In response to that article, Binance said it was helping drive higher industry standards and the reporting was “wildly outdated.” In August 2021, Binance compelled new and existing users to submit identification.
With around 120 million users worldwide, Binance processes crypto trades worth hundreds of billions of dollars a month. The sector was hit by a sharp correction in May, its overall value slumping by a quarter to $1.3 trillion. Zhao said he saw “new found resiliency” in the market.
Meanwhile, his company is extending its reach into traditional business, announcing a $200 million investment in media group Forbes this year and committing $500 million to Tesla boss Elon Musk’s bid to take over Twitter. A Forbes spokesperson declined to comment. Musk didn’t respond to requests for comment.”
Overview by Tim Sloane, VP, Payments Innovation at Mercator Advisory Group