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The U.S. House of Representatives unanimously passed a bill intended to help prevent the illegal use of cryptocurrencies. The bill is meant to stop the use of cryptocurrencies including bitcoin, monero, dash, and Zcash, in online markets to carry out illegal activities such as drug and sex trafficking. Currently, the biggest dark web marketplaces support the use of more than one of these cryptocurrencies. Dream Market, for example, supports the use of Bitcoin and Bitcoin Cash.
Bill H.R 6069 known as the “fight Illicit Networks and Detect Trafficking Act” or simply the “FIND Trafficking Act,” was introduced to the House by California Representative Juan Vargas.
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
FIGHT ILLICIT NETWORKS AND DETECT TRAFFICKING ACT
The main purpose of the act is to provide legislative and regulatory actions that will be taken to facilitate efforts by federal agencies in stopping the use of cryptocurrencies and online marketplaces in drug and sex trafficking.
In passing the bill, the house recognized that cryptocurrencies are developed to meet the legitimate need for a versatile means of payment that provides immediate finality and anonymity while carrying out online trades. These characteristics favor the use of cryptocurrencies in carrying out illegal activities. To justify the passing of the bill, the Committee on Financial Services cited some findings including the Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) 2017 National Drug Threat Assessment, that said the use of cryptocurrencies by transnational criminal agencies have increased.
The bill was passed days after the Deputy Director Office of Investigations U.S. Secret Service, Robert Novy, called upon the Congress to enact additional legislations and regulations to make it easier for law enforcement to curb illicit use of cryptocurrencies and ensure that the agencies maintain lawful access to evidence in whatever form or location the information is stored. In his testimony before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Financial Services, Novy termed the use of cryptocurrency mixers that help make transactions untraceable on the blockchain as one of the most significant challenges that law enforcement agencies faced in uncovering identities of cryptocurrency users.
The bill requires the Government Accountability Office (GAO), to carry out a study on how cryptocurrencies and online marketplaces are used in drug and sex trafficking. The bill will then need to prepare a report in a year’s time summarizing the results of the study, accompanied by recommendations of legislative and regulatory actions that can help aid federal agencies in the fight against illegal use of cryptocurrencies. The study will focus on how blockchain technology can be used to stop illegal cryptocurrency use, as well as to monitor how funds in cryptocurrencies are transferred into the formal banking system, and monitor how the darknet facilitates illicit activities among other things.
SEC. 3. GAO STUDY.
(a) Study Required.–The Comptroller General of the United States
shall conduct a study on how virtual currencies and online marketplaces
are used to facilitate sex and drug trafficking.
(b) Scope.–For the purposes of the study required under subsection
(a), the term
sex trafficking” means the recruitment, harboring,
transportation, provision, obtaining, patronizing, or soliciting of a
person for the purpose of a commercial sex act that is induced by
force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform
such act has not attained 18 years of age.
(c) Report to Congress.–Not later than 1 year after the date of
enactment of this Act
The bill was passed in the same week that the U.S. Department of Justice disclosed the details of a nationwide undercover operation that targeted darknet vendors. The sting involved the Department of Justice, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the U.S. Secret Service (USSS) and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) and led to more than 35 arrests. The year-long operation resulted in the seizure of about 2,000 bitcoins and other cryptocurrencies, said to be worth more than $20 million.
Cryptocurrencies provide darknet users with the much-desired anonymity, but the fact that transactions can be traced in the blockchain serves as a huge setback and as such cryptocurrency users are encouraged to use mixers to ensure they keep their identities hidden.