Warren criticizes crypto’s involvement in Fentanyl transactions

US Senator Elizabeth Warren has denounced the role of cryptocurrency in fentanyl drug trafficking and advocated for her bill to combat money laundering during a congressional hearing on Wednesday.

The Massachusetts Democrat, who has a long history of criticizing crypto, stated that her bill, the Digital Asset Anti-Money Laundering Act, will close loopholes “in our anti-money laundering rules and cuts off drugs suppliers and cartels from using crypto to fuel their illegal business.”

Warren added, “Crypto is helping fund the fentanyl trade. And we have the power to shut that down. It’s time,” during a Senate Banking Committee hearing.

Fentanyl and other synthetic opioids are the most common drugs involved in overdose deaths, and over 150 people die every day from overdoses related to synthetic opioids like fentanyl, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention .

As of 2020, China and Mexico are the primary source countries for fentanyl and fentanyl-related substances, according to the US Drug Enforcement Administration.

During the hearing, Warren asked Elizabeth Rosenberg, the Treasury Department’s assistant secretary for Terrorist Financing and Financial Crimes, about whether Chinese companies used crypto in illegal drug transactions.

Rosenberg, who testified at the hearing, answered yes.

“Unfortunately, that is a mode that some of these precursor manufacturers and illicit drug organizations have used,” Rosenberg said.

Warren also cited figures from research firm Elliptic showing 90 Chinese suppliers sold “enough precursor drugs in exchange for crypto to produce $54 billion worth of fentanyl pills.”

“That is enough fentanyl to kill nearly 9 billion people, all paid for by crypto,” Warren said.

Warren’s stance on crypto

Warren first introduced her Digital Asset Anti-Money Laundering Act late last year, which seeks to bring the crypto industry into compliance with the existing anti-money laundering while also countering terrorism financing.

Warren has long criticized crypto, calling it an industry “that is built to favor scammers.”

Warren has also voiced concerns about bad actors in North Korea using crypto to evade sanctions in a hearing earlier this month.