WSJ: $88.6 Million in Illicit Funds Funneled Through Cryptocurrency Exchanges
A recent Wall Street Journal investigation has found that $88.6 million in ill-gotten funds have been funneled through 46 cryptocurrency exchanges, the WSJ reported September 28. $9 million of the suspect funds reportedly went through crypto exchange ShapeShift.
ShapeShift is a Switzerland-based digital currency exchange that was formed in 2014 by Erik Voorhees. Unlike other trading platforms, ShapeShift allows users to anonymously trade Bitcoin (BTC), which police can track, but can not identify the individual behind the transaction.
To conduct its investigation of crypto money laundering, WSJ reportedly developed a computer program that tracked funds from over 2,500 suspected investment frauds, blackmail schemes and other alleged crimes that used BTC and Ethereum (ETH). To analyze ShapeShift transactions, WSJ downloaded and stored a list of the 50 latest transactions every 15 seconds, at the exchange’s website.
Per WSJ, bad actors took advantage of ShapeShift’s services to convert BTC into an untraceable cryptocurrency Monero. ShapeShift further continued to process “millions” of fraudulently obtained dollars, but did not change its policy regarding users anonymity. In an interview with WSJ, Voorhees said that he does not think that “people should have their identity recorded to catch an occasional criminal.”
WSJ subsequently provided ShapeShift with a list of suspicious addresses, which were allegedly using the exchange. Veronica McGregor, the chief legal officer at ShapeShift, told WSJ that the exchange reviewed and banned those addresses. She also said that the company plans to require user identification data starting Oct. 1.
Commenting on Voorhees’s views regarding the company’s anonymity policy, McGregor said that “just because it’s the personal philosophy of the CEO doesn’t mean that’s how the business is going to be run. He’s not pro-money-laundering.”
While users have not been previously obliged to sign in or register on ShapeShift in order to execute trades, the exchange will gradually introduce ID requirements for traders. Earlier this month, ShapeShift introduced a new rewards program, which will eventually become a mandatory membership model for the exchange’s users and require the provision of “basic” personal information.