cover carlisle crypto launderers

The Crypto Launderers - Carlisle

David Carlisle

Crime and Cryptocurrencies from the Dark Web to DeFi and beyond.

It's important to note, at the outset, what this book is not. It is written by David Carlisle of Elliptic and the forward is by Elliptic's CEO. The book is not about, nor is it a promo for, Elliptic. It's 250 odd pages of which about 50 are notes, glossary and index but it is not a heavy tome filled with academic terms. It's not entirely original - as the acknowledgements say, various publications have carried articles by Carlisle and upon which he leans for this book. It covers many alternative currencies but in this it is not comprehensive: they illustrate a point rather than form a plank of the work. And although Elliptic is a company specialising in analysing data on the blockchain, it's not a "how to" guide for investigators.

So if that's what it isn't what is it?

It's a near-plain English description of the ways in which non-fiat currencies, predominantly crypto, are used by criminals to commit crimes and to launder the proceeds of those crimes and the signs of abuse. Think KYC where C stands for crypto.

Best viewed as a primer, covering a lot of ground in a short book creating a cohesive overview of the development of alternative currencies and narrowing that down to crypto not because it is, of itself, novel in use (because it isn't) but because of two specific factors that, when drawn together, created a novel concept: that of a reasonably secure (due to cryptography) asset the existence and ownership of which is recorded in an open register (the blockchain).

Also, there is a very helpful clear and extensive explanation of the mechanics behind crypto-exchanges and mixers.

The book covers the growth of crypto-assets and their used in various forms, including Non-Fungible Tokens and the Metaverse. Was it written before both fads were over or is it in anticipation of both fads having a resurgence? Well, in the past few weeks we've seen a determined effort by some to rekindle interest in NFTs and the Metaverse (not that there is a single metaverse) never really went away; but then again it never really arrived, either.

There is no doubt that metaverse tech will form the basis of much web development (actually, it has since the very early 2000s) but whether Crypto plays a big part in that depends on two things: one is how much the dark web converts to a metaverse-like environment and the other is whether ordinary people adopt crypto as an effective day-to-day currency. Of course, as we saw with, for example, Second Life and a host of online games, there is a willingness to adopt in-game tokens which are not dependent on the common use of a third party currency. So the book is not wrong, but it is a bit out of time. What seems almost historical is likely to become prophetic, albeit not uniquely so.

Where the book really scores is in its reporting of cases relating to crypto. There are many and, frankly, it's a pain in the Google to find them. To have a collection in one place, clearly explained is a boon. It is here that David Carlisle excels. What did people do that was wrong, what went wrong, what led to an investigation and/or failure and how was it resolved? Pretty much none of it turns on the fact that it's crypto because, in the real world, nothing much turns on what form of "money" is involved in financial crime. So it's a very clear exposition of how businesses and individuals operating under the banner of "crypto" did what fraudsters, company manipulators and money launderers do all the time. It is extremely valuable to have the myth that "crypto" is something special in how it is used dispelled so comprehensively.

The Hitchhikers' Guide to the Galaxy had "Don't Panic" in big letters on the cover. This book could have "Don't be Fooled" because the overriding message is this: crypto exists and technologically it's underpinned by some complex tech. But criminals use it just like they use anything else with one big difference. Unlike notes and coin, it's traceable and trackable.

With cryptocurrencies, there is no such thing as "mattress money" and it won't sit in a shed in the jungle rotting away because someone, somewhere, can find it, freeze it and confiscate it.

The Crypto Launderers brings that reality to the masses who are generally all too willing to be sucked in by the misinformation that continues to be prominent across the interweb.

Nigel Morris-Cotterill - Vortex Centrum
Wiley and Son