Stablecoin issuer Tether has moved to freeze a whopping $225 million believed to belong to an international human trafficking group in Southeast Asia to assist the U.S. Department of Justice.
No To Human Trafficking: Freezing USDT Related To ‘Pig Butchering’ Scam
Tether revealed on Monday that it has taken measures to block self-custodied digital wallets holding USDT that were linked to a human trafficking syndicate in Southeast Asia in collaboration with the United States Department of Justice (DOJ).
The bad actors were running an expansive “pig butchering” scam. It’s a type of scheme where scammers create an online relationship with unsuspecting individuals and then trick them into sending money for a bogus investment opportunity, much like a farmer fattening up his pigs before taking them to slaughter.
Tether revealed that the freezing of $225 million USDT followed a “months-long investigative effort” into the movements of the funds between the firm and crypto exchange OKX using blockchain analysis firm Chainalysis tools. Data from Lookonchain indicates that the $225 million was frozen across 37 wallets. The landmark move marks the biggest-ever freeze of USDT. Tether clarified that the frozen wallets are not directly tied to its customers as they are on the secondary market.
“Through proactive engagement with global law enforcement agencies and our commitment to transparency, Tether aims to set a new standard for safety within the crypto space,” Tether CEO Paolo Ardoino posited. “Our recent collaboration with the Department of Justice underscores our dedication to fostering a secure environment.”
The company said it would “work quickly” with U.S. authorities to unfreeze any lawful accounts that may have been affected by the operation.
Collaborative Efforts With Law Enforcement
Tether mints USDT — the industry’s third-biggest crypto after Bitcoin and Ethereum. The company has in the past worked with global law enforcement agencies to track and freeze assets linked to criminal and terrorist activity. Case in point, Tether collaborated with Israel’s National Bureau for Counter Terror Financing (NBCTF) last month to freeze over $873,000 worth of USDT across 32 addresses tied to terrorism and warfare in Israel and Ukraine.
Notably, OKX’s Chief Innovation Officer, Jason Lau, also highlighted the exchange’s commitment to collaborating with law enforcement and various industry actors to combat crypto-related crime.
“Collaborating with industry stakeholders, including law enforcement agencies, is a key tenet of our approach to building trust and serving the public good as a leader in the crypto industry. At OKX, we will continue to contribute to these initiatives on a proactive basis,” he concluded.