The United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has revealed the existence of a Cryptocurrency Intelligence Program (CIP) in the agency’s 2021 budget proposal.
The proposal states that the CIP seeks to identify unlicensed capital flows taking place across peer-to-peer (P2P) marketplaces, online forums, and darknet markets. The CIP was developed by ICE’s Bulk Cash Smuggling Center (BCSC).
“The BCSC has developed a Cryptocurrency Intelligence Program (CIP) which identifies unlicensed money services businesses in the form of independent cryptocurrency brokers’ use of peer-to-peer (P2P) sites, online forums and classified advertisements, and darknet markets (DNM) to engage in unlicensed money services businesses (MSB) activity.”
ICE states that “a large portion” unlicensed MSBs operating with cryptocurrency on darknet markets and P2P marketplaces are engaged in the laundering of narcotics proceeds.
The agency adds that it has increased its training and cyber analytics capabilities for “cyber investigations targeting darknet illicit marketplaces where fentanyl and chemical precursors are often sold.”
Darknet markets have been a target of numerous ICE enforcement actions in recent years, with ICE agents receiving “advanced darknet training” since at least September 2019.
ICE partnered with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration in mid-2017 to conduct a year-long nationwide investigation targeting darknet vendors, leading to over 35 arrests. ICE also executed a week-long internationally coordinated action during October 2016.
The revelation of ICE’s Cryptocurrency Investigations Program amid increasing efforts to crack down on darknet activity globally.
On Feb. 25, the government-owned Austrian Institute of Technology announced it had partnered with French blockchain security company NIGMA Conseil to collaborate on blockchain forensics.
The companies are working to provide blockchain forensics services to governments and businesses, including dark web scraping and wallet clustering.