Mafia groups and criminal organizations are increasingly using cryptocurrencies, according to the Italian Anti-Mafia Directorate (DIA), an Italian anti-Mafia police force that spoke to German outlet Zeit Online.
“All criminal organizations, including those of the Mafia type, have an interest in using these instruments for their business,” a DIA spokesperson told Zeit Online. For their personal safety, the spokesperson was not identified.
The DIA recently published a report that covers organized crime in Italy during the first six months of 2020, the most recent period for which data is available.
“Ndrangheta, the country’s strongest and most powerful criminal syndicate, are growing more and more attuned to modern tools like cryptocurrency and the deep web,” the DIA said in the report.
The report added that cryptocurrencies are being used to anonymously pay for synthetic drugs like ecstasy or LSD, a trade that has grown amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
This is far from the first time cryptocurrencies and the dark web have been used to facilitate crime. But in 2020, dark web vendors made more money than ever before.
Cryptocurrency and the dark web
A December 2020 Chainalysis report found that while dark web markets were decreasing in number, they were increasing their revenue during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
“While total darknet market revenue has already surpassed 2019 totals, the overall number of purchases, and likely customers as well, has fallen significantly, though the remaining purchases are for higher values,” Chainalysis wrote.
That increasing revenue came via cryptocurrencies that included Bitcoin, Bitcoin Cash, Litecoin, and Tether, backing up the claims made by Italy’s Anti-Mafia Directorate.
Ingo Fiedler, a co-founder of the Blockchain Research Lab, suggested that the data showed illicit crypto finance is increasingly becoming the remit of sophisticated criminals—much like the Mafia groups and organized criminal organizations described by the DIA.
“Only the most sophisticated can obfuscate their traces by now," Fiedler told Decrypt in December. "That prevents small dealers from participating in the market and a natural tendency towards fewer but larger dealers on those markets."