WSJ’s ShapeShift Exposé Overstated Cash Laundering by $6 Million, Investigation States


When it arrives to cryptocurrency transactions, questions about alleged dollars-laundering immediately get thorny.

A Wall Road Journal investigation from final September, titled “How Dirty Cash Disappears Into the Black Gap of Cryptocurrency,” claimed the crypto conversion system ShapeShift had facilitated at minimum $9 million worth of dollars laundering in excess of numerous several years with “a parade of suspected criminals.”

Now, at ShapeShift’s request, the blockchain analytics organization CipherBlade recreated the 2018 report and discovered much less than $3 million in transactions involving possibly “tainted” money.

The most important distinction listed here is that CipherBlade concentrated on allegedly tainted cash as a substitute of the whole value held in each and every affiliated wallet or account.

“Of the ShapeShift addresses which get ETH within 3 hops from the preliminary dirty addresses, much less than 50 % of the ETH traded through them are tainted,” the CipherBlade report states. “Using the most generous assumptions, this is still only 23.53 p.c of the WSJ’s claimed $9 million.”

Incorporate to that ether to roughly 40 bitcoin, which ShapeShift itself discovered to be linked with suspicious wallet’s the WSJ determined, and the whole estimate falls just shy of $3 million.

When questioned about the investigative course of action, a WSJ spokesperson instructed CoinDesk:

“An evaluation wanting at individual tainted ethereum cash, relatively than tainted wallets, would be a distinctive undertaking than what the Journal embarked on, and one we can’t remark on mainly because we have not reviewed it.”

All parties agree the most pessimistic reading of the info still indicates questionable transactions manufactured up a pittance of ShapeShift’s volume because the business was launched in 2014. According to a tweet by CEO Erik Voorhees, ShapeShift processed crypto worth $30.3 million a thirty day period in 2017 by itself.

Nonetheless, experts these as Pawel Kuskowski, CEO of the analytics organization Coinfirm, instructed CoinDesk there is no crystal clear respond to to how considerably might have been laundered through the system – mainly because right until October 2018 ShapeShift did not carry out know-your-customer (KYC) identity checks.

“If you do not know the underlying clients, how do you know?” Kuskowski instructed CoinDesk. “This is why you have KYC in the first spot, to recognize the profile.”

When questioned about whether it is improved to account for the total wallet or concentration on the tainted cash them selves, Kuskowski explained the reality hides in the shades of grey in among. He explained a intricate evaluation of the hazards linked with the individuals associated in these transactions, alongside with “plausibility and some other guidelines,” all combine to expose whether the wallets them selves should be regarded tainted or suspicious.

In Coinfirm’s individual report on hazards linked with crypto platforms, ShapeShift was categorized as “high risk” with regards to anti-dollars laundering procedures and compliance mainly because of anonymous utilization right until the KYC coverage started final October. According to Kuskowski, it often can take months for a classic bank to de-risk after any association with dollars laundering.

“It’s a very good route, which is for sure,” Kuskowski explained of ShapeShift’s additional KYC procedures.

Compliance overhaul

That de-jeopardizing course of action actually started months just before the WSJ report, according to ShapeShift Main Lawful Officer Veronica McGregor.

“Among regulation enforcement, ShapeShift is regarded as a really practical and cooperative player,” she instructed CoinDesk. “Just mainly because we begun utilizing individuals KYC procedures does not suggest that we did not now have procedures in spot to detect fraud and terrible wallet addresses and theft, matters like that.”

The business was now working with exterior consultants to identify and block transactions from suspicious wallets, McGregor explained. Then ShapeShift underwent a compliance overhaul during the second 50 % of 2018, mandating KYC identity checks for all end users and working with 3 impartial analytics firms, Chainalysis, ComplyAdvantage and IDology.

McGregor explained ShapeShift continues to “tweak” its procedures, both of those in-household and through get the job done with the 3 aforementioned solutions providers, in get to keep up with the evolving technological innovation.

Richard Sanders, CSO and co-founder of CipherBlade, instructed CoinDesk he thinks the statements in the WSJ report had been “grossly exaggerated.”

“We did come across all around $3 million, which is not a good glance for ShapeShift,” Sanders explained. “But it is noticeably lesser than what the Wall Road Journal documented.” CipherBlade states its impartial evaluation was not compensated for by ShapeShift.

For his element, ShapeShift’s Voorhees continues request the WSJ retract the report, which was revealed in September 2018 all through the company’s compliance overhaul. He thinks the methodology utilized to tally questionable money was fundamentally flawed.

“Crypto is bringing mild, reality, and openness to finance,” Voorhees instructed CoinDesk. “And it is a pleasurable irony that the transparency of blockchains so easily vindicates us from the narrative that the Journal has imagined into existence.”



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