Tether Exposed: The Dark Side of Stablecoins and Money Laundering

The UN report has identified Tether as a rising key tool used by money launderers and fraudsters in Southeast Asia.

UN report highlights Tether’s growing involvement in money laundering in Southeast Asia.

By Jai Pratap | Last updated: January 15, 2024 02:06 EST | 1 min read

Tether Source: AdobeStock

In a recent report released by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, Tether, one of the world’s largest stablecoin Tether, has been identified as a prominent tool employed by money launderers and fraudsters operating in Southeast Asia.

The report sheds light on the increasing use of Tether’s stablecoin USDT as a preferred method for illicit activities, raising concerns among law enforcement and financial intelligence authorities.

The UN report, published on Monday, highlights the alarming surge in scams associated with Tether, including schemes that manipulate false romantic connections to gain victims’ trust before coaxing them into transferring substantial sums – a tactic commonly known as “pig butchering,” Financial Times reported.

Tether is Becoming Go-To Choice for Money Launderers

According to the report, authorities have observed a rapid growth in sophisticated, high-speed money laundering teams that specialize in utilizing Tether for underground transactions.

The evolution of cryptocurrency, coupled with other technological advancements, has further propelled organized crime gangs in southeast Asia to exploit black market casinos for laundering illicit funds.

The report points out that online gambling platforms, particularly those operating illegally, have become popular avenues for cryptocurrency-based money launderers, with USDT being a favored choice.

Jeremy Douglas of the UN’s Office on Drugs and Crime commented on the situation, stating:

“Organized crime has effectively created a parallel banking system using new technologies, and the proliferation of loosely or entirely unregulated online casinos, together with crypto, has supercharged the region’s criminal ecosystem.”

Several Tether-Linked Money Laundering Networks Dismantled

Tether, a stablecoin pegged to the US dollar, has allowed traders to navigate in and out of crypto trades, distinguishing it from other cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin predominantly used for speculation.

The report highlights recent efforts by authorities to dismantle money laundering networks associated with Tether, including a successful operation by Singaporean authorities that recovered $737 million in cash and crypto last August.

Despite regulatory scrutiny and enforcement crackdowns in various jurisdictions, criminal groups persist in adopting the leading stablecoin as a preferred method for moving funds.

Some casinos have even specialized in handling stablecoin transactions, further emphasizing the cryptocurrency’s role in illicit financial activities.


Q: What is Tether?

A: Tether is a stablecoin, a type of cryptocurrency that is designed to maintain a stable value by being pegged to a fiat currency, usually the US dollar. It is used as a medium of exchange and is often used by traders to navigate in and out of different cryptocurrency trades.

Q: What makes Tether attractive to money launderers?

A: Tether’s popularity among money launderers stems from its ability to provide a seemingly legitimate and stable means of transferring funds, which can be used to disguise the origins of illicit money. Its integration with online gambling platforms and black market casinos also makes it easier for criminals to launder their illegal funds.

Q: How are authorities tackling Tether-linked money laundering networks?

A: Authorities are taking action to dismantle money laundering networks associated with Tether. Recent successful operations, such as the one conducted by Singaporean authorities, have led to the recovery of significant amounts of cash and cryptocurrencies. However, despite these efforts, criminal groups continue to adopt Tether as their preferred method for moving funds.

The Future of Tether and Stablecoins

With the increasing scrutiny and exposure of Tether’s involvement in money laundering activities, it is likely that regulators and authorities will implement stricter regulations and enforcement measures. This could impact the overall stability and usage of stablecoins like Tether.

Investors and traders should stay informed about the evolving regulatory landscape and consider diversifying their cryptocurrency holdings to mitigate potential risks associated with stablecoins.

It is also important for the cryptocurrency community as a whole to work towards building trust and transparency within the industry. This can be achieved through the development of robust regulatory frameworks and better collaboration between industry players and regulatory bodies.


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