How Criminals With Large Crypto Asset Obtain Their Illegal Fortune

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New data from market intelligence firm Chainalysis reveals how most criminal crypto whales amassed their illicit riches.

In a new report, the market analytics company notes that criminal crypto whales are growing their balance sheets overwhelmingly by stealing funds, but also from darknet transactions, scams, fraudulent shops and ransomware.

“Two things stand out most: The first is the huge increase in criminal balances in 2021 – at year’s end, criminals held $11 billion worth of funds with known illicit sources, compared to just $3 billion at the end of 2020. The second is how much stolen funds dominate.

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.”

Chainalysis finds that the total amount of crypto assets held by criminal whales has reached $25 billion worth of digital assets, meaning criminal whales comprise 3.7% of all deep-pocketed investors.

“Overall, Chainalysis has identified 4,068 criminal whales holding over $25 billion worth of cryptocurrency. Criminal whales represent 3.7% of all cryptocurrency whales – that is, private wallets holding over $1 million worth of cryptocurrency.”

The crypto research firm also highlights the increasing speed at which criminal whales are liquidating their assets, particularly those who use ransomware.

“What really stands out is how much holding times have decreased across the board, as the 2021 average holding times are at least 75% shorter than the all-time figures in all categories.

Ransomware operators, in particular, exemplify this trend, as they now hold funds on average for just 65 days before liquidating. This may be a response to the mounting law enforcement pressure ransomware attackers face.”

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