According to studies conducted by the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Department of the Treasury, virtual currencies are increasingly used by transnational criminal organizations to facilitate business. Two types of illicit business conducted by these organizations are the trafficking of people and drugs. The International Labour Organization estimates that, in 2016, 4.8 million people were victims of forced sexual trafficking, resulting in a global profit of $99 billion. Further, the Department of the Treasury’s National Money Laundering Risk Assessment estimates that, as of 2015, $64 billion was generated annually from US drug trafficking sales, a significant percentage of which is fueling the ongoing opioid crisis in the United States.
In light of these developments, HR 502, the Fight Illicit Networks and Detect Trafficking Act (FIND Trafficking Act), directs the Comptroller General (i.e., the director of the Government Accountability Office) to conduct a study on the use of virtual currencies in the online trafficking of drugs and sex. The study will examine how online marketplaces such as the dark web are used in concurrence with virtual currencies to facilitate the trafficking of sex and drugs. The study will also analyze how these illicit funds have repatriated into the formal banking system, and what efforts federal and state agencies can take to impede the buying, selling, or financing of goods associated with sex and drug trafficking. These efforts have become more salient in recent years as deaths from opioids are now six times higher than they were in 1999 according to the Centers for Disease Control.