Senator Elizabeth Warren testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee on May 4, where she emphasized crypto’s use in crime and sanctions evasion.
Russia, North Korea’s crypto use in 2022
During her testimony, Warren said:
“Cryptocurrency is now the method of choice for countries to evade sanctions so that they can fund weapons programs support spying and promote cyber attacks.”
Warren explained that although much cryptocurrency-related crime is “hidden,” more than $20 billion in illicit transactions took place over the course of 2022, an estimate that is in line with recent data from Chainalysis. Warren further noted that Russia and North Korea moved at least $8 billion through cryptocurrency.
She added that, according to the UN Security Council, North Korea uses stolen crypto to fund nuclear weapons programs. Lieutenant General Scott D. Berrier acknowledged that this “is a threat that we recognize” when Warren asked him if this was so.
Warren also asked Avril D. Haines, Director of National Intelligence, if crypto poses such a threat. Haines responded by stating that cryptocurrency does not just contribute to North Korea’s weapons development but also threatens network security.
Warren highlights Islamic groups, Russian ransomware
Warren also said Binance handled $8 billion of Iranian crypto transactions since 2018. She said those transactions include a portion of crypto earned by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, which operates the country’s largest Bitcoin mining operation.
Finally, Warren said that leading ransomware groups are believed to be operated by Russian actors and added that virtually 100% of ransomware payments are conducted in payment, based on data from a past Homeland Security report.
Haines and Berrier once again answered that those activities constitute a threat.
Warren concluded that she and Senator Roger Marshall plan to reintroduce a bill to increase regulation of crypto-created crime. She said that this bill is different from securities regulations that aim to protect investors from fraud.
Warren has long been a harsh critic of cryptocurrency. In late March, she said that her re-election campaign would involve “build[ing] an anti-crypto army.” She previously attempted to advance a crypto regulation bill in December 2022.
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