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Human Trafficking, Scams, Laundering - The Wonderful World of Crypto

Trees of green... As long as it's money green. And in the crypto world, money is all that matters. Also, SEBA Bank's Hong Kong approval, Uniswap's legal victory, Coinbase's vision of the future and more

August 31, 2023

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Shining a light on the seedy underbelly of the crypto world, the United Nations (UN) has unearthed a link between crypto scams and human trafficking in Southeast Asia.

In a report published this week, the UN detailed how scammers exploit trafficking victims for scam operations, forcing them into online criminal activities. Fake gambling sites, love scams and fraudulent crypto trading platforms are all tools for such operations.

Examples given include traffickers transferring victims from Cambodia to Myanmar, and subjecting them to torture, sexual abuse, and violence. Gang rape and trafficking into the sex sector are used as punishment for failure to meet targets.

Families of the victims are also threatened and approached for ransom payments in crypto, often being sent photographic evidence of the victim suffering physical abuse.

Scammers are drawn to crypto due to its anonymous nature, difficulty in tracing transactions, and detection evasion. Crypto is thus used as payment within their network, as well as external criminal actors involved in human trafficking.

Illicit gains are converted into fiat through platforms such as Meta Trader, Binance, Coinbase, and Trust Wallet.

USDT is the most popular crypto for scammers, likely due to its unmatched market cap size and peg to the US dollar.

In one case detailed by Bloomberg, 41-year-old Malaysian Blice Tan said he answered an ad on JobStreet for a role in telesales in Cambodia. Upon arriving, he was given phones with fake accounts and told he could not leave. Tan was ordered to ensure his targets sent Tether because it was "more safe." He explained, “We are afraid people will track us, for money laundering. It’s untraceable."

Most recently, Tether worth about US$170,260 (S$230,273) was discovered amid the $1 billion money laundering seize in Singapore.

What a wonderful world it could be.


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  • SEBA Bank's Hong Kong Hat-Tip: SEBA Bank has secured key regulatory approval in Hong Kong, marking a significant step in its expansion efforts. This approval paves the way for the bank to offer a broader range of services in the region, further solidifying its position in the global crypto banking landscape.