Sen. Elizabeth Warren Claims Chinese Companies Use Crypto for Drug Trade 

Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren raised concerns about a potential connection between cryptocurrency payments and Chinese companies supplying precursors for the opioid fentanyl during a hearing of the United States Senate Banking Committee on China.

Warren cited a report from blockchain analytics firm Elliptic, which highlighted that approximately 90% of China-based firms involved in fentanyl precursor supply were open to accepting cryptocurrencies, including Bitcoin, for payment. Despite the supposed ban on crypto in China, Warren pointed out the significant increase in crypto transactions associated with Chinese fentanyl brokers, which rose by 450% in the past year alone, according to the Elliptic report.

Elizabeth Rosenberg, assistant secretary for terrorist financing and financial crimes in the U.S. Treasury Department, supported Warren’s argument, stating that the pseudonymous nature of crypto transactions likely facilitated payments for drug brokers. She further confirmed that cryptocurrency was indeed one of the primary payment methods used by Chinese companies in this context.

Elizabeth Warren Plans to Introduce Legislation to Combat Illegal Drug Trade

In response to the issue, the Massachusetts senator expressed her intention to reintroduce legislation that would address the regulatory gaps surrounding cryptocurrency payments to companies involved in the illicit drug trade. Elizabeth Warren had initially introduced the Digital Asset Anti-Money Laundering Act in 2022 and had previously mentioned her plans to reintroduce the bill during congressional hearings on cryptocurrencies.

Elizabeth Warren emphasized the need for concrete action, stating that Congress had discussed the fentanyl problem for long enough and it was time to take effective measures to combat it. The alarming data from the National Institutes of Health revealed that in 2021 alone, there were over 70,000 deaths in the United States resulting from synthetic opioid overdoses, including fentanyl. Silk Road, one of the prominent platforms that facilitated illegal drug transactions using cryptocurrency payments, was shut down in 2013, and its founder, Ross Ulbricht, was sentenced to life in prison.