U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) cited the rampant use of cryptocurrency in the Chinese fentanyl trade during a Wednesday Senate hearing, arguing for legislation to help break that pipeline.
The prominent member of the Senate Banking Committee referred to data from research firm Elliptic that revealed more than 90 Chinese businesses offering to ship fentanyl precursors, with almost all of them taking crypto in exchange.
“Unfortunately, that is a mode that some of these precursor manufacturers and illicit drug organizations have used – the receipt of bitcoin payments in wallets, cryptocurrency wallets,” said Elizabeth Rosenberg, the U.S. Treasury Department’s assistant secretary for terrorist financing and financial crimes, in testimony during the panel’s hearing.
“The reason why they would find this appealing is the same reason that other financial criminals would find it appealing, which is to say there’s an element of pseudonymity that they seek,” Rosenberg said.
U.S. overdoses involving fentanyl have become the leading killer for those aged 18-45. The chemicals used to manufacture the dangerous drug often come from China and wind their way across multiple borders on their path to U.S. users of the synthetic opioid, which the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) says is 100 times more potent than morphine.
Warren suggested her Digital Asset Anti-Money Laundering Act may help cut off the crypto payments, and she said the bill will be reintroduced in this Congress.
“Crypto is helping fund the fentanyl trade, and we have the power to shut that down,” Warren said. “It’s time.”
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