Blockchain analysis firm Elliptic said May 23 that several Chinese companies selling precursors to the synthetic opioid fentanyl have received millions in cryptocurrency.

Elliptic reported that its researchers interacted with over 90 companies in China that offered to sell fentanyl precursors.

According to the analytics company, 90% of those companies accepted cryptocurrency payments, while 17 companies were willing to supply fentanyl itself.

Wallets received vast quantities of crypto

Elliptic determined that the cryptocurrency wallets owned by the chemical providers have received more than $27 million in crypto. This amount could afford the purchase of enough fentanyl precursors to create pills with a street value of $54 billion, it said.

The chemical providers received payments over thousands of transactions, Elliptic said. It also noted that the number of transactions to those wallets increased 450% year-on-year and said that one fentanyl trafficker paid tens of thousands of dollars.

Suppliers largely accepted Bitcoin (BTC) and Tether (USDT), Elliptic reported. The analysis by Elliptic indicates that payments sent to addresses of precursor suppliers have seen a year-over-year increase of 450%.

Fentanyl precursor crypto payments (Source: Elliptic)

Among the addresses shared by precursor suppliers that were analyzed by Elliptic, payments in Bitcoin (BTC) totaled 66% of total transactions, Tether (USDT) payments on the Tron blockchain accounted for 21% and USDT payments on the Ethereum blockchain accounted for 13% of total transactions. Other cryptocurrencies only accounted for 1% of the total transactions.

Elliptic noted that some businesses provided other chemicals, many of which can be used to create other synthetic opioids, methamphetamine and amphetamine.

The analytics company has informed exchanges of the illegal activity and has flagged the cryptocurrency addresses involved in the sales.

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