Bitcoin mixers see increased usage from darknet entities

A new report by Crystal Blockchain, the cryptocurrency analytic and transaction tracing platform created by Bitfury, reveals a number of statistics regarding darknet transaction flows between BTC mixing services, digital currency exchanges, and other darknet entities. 

The Data

Crystal Blockchain’s report “reviews the use of BTC by darknet entities; [as well as] analyzes darknet interactions with exchanges and other entities throughout the first quarter of 2020 and compares it to historical darknet activity from the past three years.”

Ultimately, Crystal Blockchain found that the total number of BTC being sent and received by these exchanges has decreased, however, the total amount of USD has grown significantly.

Key findings

Darknet interactions with cryptocurrency mixers


The report found that the amount of BTC sent to digital currency mixing services—services that mix digital currency funds from different sources together to obscure the trail back to the original source—rose by over 2000%. In Q1 2019, only $3 million (790 BTC) was sent to mixing services by darknet entities, but in Q1 2019, that number rose to $67 million (7,946 BTC).

The research found that the amount of BTC received by darknet entities from mixing services had also increased by about 3x. Darknet entities received roughly $2 million in BTC (288 BTC) from mixers in Q1 2020, compared to the $400,000 (106 BTC) received from mixers in Q1 2019.

BTC sent to exchanges from darknet entities


From Q1 2019 to Q1 2020, the amount of BTC sent to digital currency exchanges from darknet entities decreased from 24% of all BTC to 13%. 

“This is likely in response to increased regulation and verification processes for exchanges, leading darknet bitcoin owners toward other services to obfuscate the source of their coins,” according to the report.

Darknet entities were using digital currency exchanges to liquidate their dirty money, but as more exchanges required users to verify personal identification information, and as more regulatory agencies kept an eye on digital currency companies that fall under their jurisdiction, exchanges became a less attractive option for darknet entities to convert their digital currencies for fiat.

Darknet Interactions with other darknet entities


The report found that the amount of BTC transferred between darknet entities increased by 161% from Q1 2019 to Q1 2020. In Q1 2019, only $21 million was transferred between darknet entities, while in Q1 2020, $55 million was transferred.

In conclusion

Crystal Blockchain’s research shows that darknet entities are alive and active and that they are using BTC as a tool to maneuver their illicitly earned money.

“These statistics indicate that BTC continues to be a financial tool for darknet entities,” says the report. “While more exchanges implement the FATF requirements, darknet users are trying to avoid the risk of unveiling of their activity by those exchanges. To hide darknet activities, they started to prefer mixing services to exchanges for withdrawal of cryptocurrency.”

BTC remains a crucial tool and currency on darknet marketplaces—and government agencies know it. This has prompted authorities to crack down on digital currency exchanges and tracing funds back to their point of origin, which is causing darknet entities to use mixing services to mask their activity. Regardless, more and more money is being sent and received by darknet entities each year.

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