Elliptic, a leading blockchain analytics firm, has uncovered a network of 100 individual suppliers facilitating the illicit fentanyl trade by smuggling the precursor chemicals needed to synthesize fentanyl.
The criminals have also been using cryptocurrency, specifically Bitcoin, Ethereum, Tron, and Monero, to make payments, facilitating the transfer of funds from buyers to suppliers, with the final destination being Mexico.
Elliptic Uncovers Illegal Fentanyl Network
In the report, Elliptic dives into the chemical supply chain feeding controlled substances into the drug epidemic in the United States and beyond, shedding light on the significant role of cryptocurrencies in this illegal trade.
Elliptic’s investigation uncovered a network of suppliers providing precursor chemicals for fentanyl synthesis who accept cryptocurrency payments, making the transactions easily accessible.
The report also reveals that there were 80 different groups with 144 distinct cryptocurrency addresses found on Bitcoin, Ethereum, Tron, and Monero blockchains, which were discovered to be linked to the suppliers of fentanyl precursor chemicals.
After the acquisition, these chemicals are shipped to Mexico, evading customs checks and law enforcement scrutiny. Once shipped, the illegal materials are delivered to various locations in Mexico, including Mexico City, and states like Querétaro and Jalisco, which are areas under the notorious Cartel Jalisco Nueva Generación (CJNG).
Bitcoin Leads with $19 Million in Transactions
Cryptocurrencies, while not the only payment method for these chemicals, play a significant role in this trade. According to Elliptic’s research, suppliers received over $32 million through three major cryptocurrencies: Bitcoin, Tether (USDT) on Tron, and Tether (USDT) on Ethereum.
The data also shows a trend of a 450% year-on-year growth in the number of payments received by fentanyl precursor suppliers since 2021. Bitcoin leads the way with $19 million, followed by Tether (USDT) on Tron with $9 million and USDT on Ethereum with $4 million.
Furthermore, these suppliers also provide these chemicals for producing other illegal drugs. The illicit drug market, including fentanyl, methamphetamine, and ecstasy, faces a severe crisis, with potentially billions of dollars worth of drugs flooding the market. This worsens the ongoing global drug crisis, with a potential street value surpassing $50 billion.
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