Jamie, it Ain’t Bitcoin: JP Morgan Involved in $1 Billion Cocaine Bust

JP Morgan boss Jamie Dimon once slammed bitcoin as fraud, saying it’s only useful “if you were a drug dealer [or] a murderer.”

So imagine his surprise when a ship owned by his bank was seized this week when authorities found $1.3 billion of cocaine inside.

Big banks are increasingly linked to money laundering and drug trafficking. Meanwhile, less than one percent of bitcoin activity is connected to illicit activity. It’s time to kill the narrative of bitcoin as dark money and ask who is the real culprit here?

$1 billion cocaine found on JP Morgan ship

US customs seized a shipping container in Philadelphia this week after authorities found 39,525 pounds of cocaine inside. With a street value of $1.3 billion, it’s the one of the biggest drug busts in US history.

The ship involved is owned by JP Morgan and was bought by client money as part of a maritime investment strategy. 

Let’s put this in perspective of bitcoin drug money. Bitcoin has been involved in $515 million worth of illegal activity in the last six months. While JP Morgan was linked to a $1.3 billion drug trafficking crime in a single incident.

Don’t forget Wall Street money laundering

It’s not just drug trafficking. Wall Street is deeply implicated in money laundering schemes. In 2017, Deutsche Bank was slammed with a $630 million fine after authorities raided the bank’s offices over money laundering claims. Deutsche staff reportedly helped clients “transfer money from criminal activities” – as much as $10 billion – to offshore accounts overseas. 

Last year a Wells Fargo banker pleaded guilty to money laundering charges. He was complicit in laundering and transferring money into Mexico from US clients.

Bitcoin: not as dark as you think

Crypto critics love to slam bitcoin for its use in drug transactions and illicit activity. And while there is some truth to this, it’s wildly exaggerated. According to a 2019 study by Chainalysis, only one percent of bitcoin activity is linked to illegal transactions. That figure is down from 12 percent in 2012. 

True, one of bitcoin’s early use cases was to facilitate illicit transactions on dark web marketplaces like Silk Road. But the bitcoin ecosystem has matured. The percentage of illegal transactions has shrunk dramatically.

So who’s the real villain here? Bitcoin or the big banks? It’s time to kill the argument that bitcoin is dark money and start looking at the bigger villains.

Last modified (UTC): July 10, 2019 9:46 AM

About the author

Ben Brown
Ben Brown

Ben is a journalist with a decade of experience covering financial markets. Based in London, UK, his writing has appeared in The Huffington Post and he was Chief Editor at Block Explorer, the world's longest-running source of Blockchain data. Reach him at or on Twitter at . Email ben @ benjamin-brown.uk.