Federal criminal charges filed on April 27, 2021 against the administrator of Bitcoin Fog, a cryptocurrency “mixer,” raise questions regarding attempts to require anti-money laundering and “know your customer” regulations for crypto money transmitters, and whether there can be (or is) anonymity or privacy in the purchase or sale of cryptocurrencies.
Cryptocurrency mixers, also known as “tumblers,” are not a new part of the cryptocurrency market. In fact, they arguably support the privacy and transactional anonymity that are part of cryptocurrency’s appeal. A bitcoin mixer allows a bitcoin holder to send bitcoins to a service, which, in turn, pools and scrambles those bitcoins with other bitcoins in a manner that obscures the transaction history and makes it more difficult to identify the original source of the funds. (The transactions that are part of the bitcoin scramble technically remain visible on the blockchain, but become much harder to follow and trace.) While some users claim mixers are a legitimate service that allow them to secure their financial privacy, mixers are also reportedly used by criminal enterprises to launder criminal proceeds, attracting regulatory scrutiny.