According to research published by Chainalysis, criminal entities hold more than $25 billion in cryptocurrencies. The blockchain intelligence firm’s study shows that there was a significant increase in crypto balances held by criminals in 2021 as the metric jumped by 266% since the year before.
Chainalysis Studies Crypto Whales Holding Balances Tied to Illicit Addresses
The blockchain surveillance company Chainalysis published a study that indicates $25 billion in digital assets is currently held by criminals. Despite the significant law enforcement seizures last year, the billions of dollars in crypto held by criminal entities on the blockchain could theoretically be seized by officials.
Chainalysis’ findings explain that 2021 saw a “huge increase in criminal balances.” In 2020, Chainalysis says the metric was $3 billion but in 2021, criminal entities held roughly $11 billion. Moreover, out of stolen funds, ransomware, fraud shops, and darknet funds, the balance of stolen funds represent the lion’s share of crypto held by criminals.
“As of the end of 2021, stolen funds account for 93% of all criminal balances at $9.8 billion. Darknet market funds are next at $448 million, followed by scams at $192 million, fraud shops at $66 million, and ransomware at $30 million,” the Chainalysis report details. “Criminal balances also fluctuated throughout the year, from a low of $6.6 billion in July to a high of $14.8 billion in October.”
Darknet Workers Hold Crypto the Longest, Criminal Crypto Whales Hold Longer Than Typical Addresses Associated With Stolen Funds
Furthermore, the Chainalysis study identified which types of criminals held crypto the longest without liquidating, and darknet market vendors and administrators ruled the roost. Entities that hold stolen crypto funds hold on to the funds for the shortest amount of time, according to the research.
Although, there are “extremely large wallets that hold longer than is typical for others in the stolen funds category.” By analyzing the balances of criminal whales, the firm was further able to notice that the whales showed “more variation.”
As far as describing what a criminal crypto whale is, Chainalysis researchers said that it is any private wallet holding $1 million in crypto and at least 10% of the funds stem from illicit addresses. Chainalysis discovered that there are thousands of alleged criminal crypto whales and it seems that most criminal whales can be placed in one of two categories — “whales received either a relatively small or extremely large share of their total balance from illicit addresses.”
“Overall, Chainalysis has identified 4,068 criminal whales holding over $25 billion worth of cryptocurrency,” the company’s study said. “Criminal whales represent 3.7% of all cryptocurrency whales — that is, private wallets holding over $1 million worth of cryptocurrency.”
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