Thai authorities are ramping up their efforts to crack down on the country’s drug networks and the ruses they use to launder their multi-million dollar turnovers — including cryptocurrency.
AFP News reported on June 26 that the recent downfall of one meth syndicate — itself allegedly responsible for laundering tens of millions of dollars of narco profits via gold dealers, oil and the construction industry — has cast a spotlight on the "scale and sophistication” of such networks.
Lieutenant-General Wissanu Prasarttong-Osoth — assistant to Thailand's police chief — has conceded “it's impossible to guess the real amount these drug networks are making."
Their profits fuel a secondary economy of laundered drug-related assets that span cryptocurrency, luxury commodities and overseas real estate.
Thai Justice Minister Somsak Thepsuthin has said that authorities identified “irregular” flows in bank accounts worth $5.4 billion, of which they are confident that close to $400 million is drug funds.
Meth lords in Asia estimated to turn over $30–$60 billion each year
Thailand’s authorities are poised to burn confiscated drugs worth $1.7 billion today, having recently burned a batch worth $800 million in Myanmar.
Despite a string of successes by law enforcement, the country has pledged to up its game and focus efforts on drug-related assets laundered through the banking system, cryptocurrency accounts and raw materials for the construction industry.
Across Asia, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime estimates that meth lords turn over a staggering $30-60 billion each year.
The meth itself is produced in a region called the “Golden Triangle,” which spans areas in northern Thailand, Laos, China and Myanmar. "Sam Gor," a Chinese criminal-dominated syndicate, reportedly controls at least 40% of the region’s meth.
Thailand is reportedly cooperating with the United States Drug Enforcement Agency to learn from its expertise in tracking laundered drug proceeds by Latin American cartels.
The fight against narco profits “can’t just stop at the drug seizure," the UNDOC’s Jeremy Douglas said.
Darknet Bitcoin activities have surged in 2020
A recent study from Crystal Blockchain Analytics revealed that the total U.S. dollar value of Bitcoin (BTC) transferred on the dark web rose by 65% in Q1 2020 — despite a decline in transactions during the same period in 2019.
Earlier this month, a United Kingdom court ordered the seizure of almost $2.3 million from an individual who operated a multi-billion crypto drug empire from the attic of his home.