Stablecoin issuer Tether (USDT) froze three addresses on Ethereum (ETH), which together hold USD 160m worth of assets.
This has been confirmed by Tether, stating that they have done so upon request from law enforcement, per Coindesk.
Per data analytics site Bloxy, Tether itself has so far frozen 563 addresses. Three are listed as having been blocked on January 13.
According to Etherscan.io, 576 accounts have been blocked by a custodial stablecoin provider such as USDT and USD coin (USDC).
One such account has USDT 818,756.12, with a total balance of USD 969,810 in more than 100 coins.
Once the accounts are blacklisted, the USDT balance is frozen, and the users are not able to move funds from them.
Nearly a year ago to this date, Tether told South China Morning Post that they “work tirelessly to assist law enforcement to stop criminals and interdict contraband,” and that they “will share customer information with law enforcement when given valid legal process,” adding:
“In fact, we have helped law enforcement and victims to freeze and return millions in USDT.”
Therefore, this is far from the first time Tether had frozen funds, some of them worth millions, and some of them returned to owners – but it has prompted concerns over centralization every time.
“This represents a pretty significant evolution of centralized stablecoin blacklist activity,” commented attorney Collins Belton on this most recent blacklisting. “Given size, I assume this can only be a few whales, an exchange/its affiliate, or smaller state actor.”
Belton suggested that these may be individuals/groups involved in criminal and/or sanctioned activities, or trying to evade sanctions.
As reported, blockchain analysis company Chainalysis found that scams continue to generate the largest stream of crypto-based crime by transaction volume, with more than USD 7.7bn worth of crypto stolen from victims across the world by December 2021.
However, the company also said this month that the growth of legitimate crypto usage is far higher than that of illicit usage.