Money Laundering and Wash Trading in NFT – Taking a Deeper Look

Wash trading is becoming common practice for a number of reasons. The trader or company may be trying to promote buying to raise prices, or to get people to sell at lower prices. The real reason is that the trader wants a tax refund whenever they engage in wash trading. This helps them in collecting capital so they can perform the same activities over and over again.

Understanding Crypto Wash Trading

In layman’s terms, Wash trading is done to trick and mislead traders, investors, and collectors about the true value and liquidity of a coin or NFT. Any trader or investor that does wash trading buys and sells the same asset over and over again.

Wash trading is impacting the market in the favor of the NFT owner/developer as it changes the actual value of the account. Wash trading requires the trader to quickly purchase and sell an asset in a short time period. Usually, one or more collaborating agents make multiple deals without any account of market risk. This makes the initial position of hostile agents the same as before.

On the Ethereum Blockchain, “Cryptopunks, a Larva Labs NFT Project”, went through a wash sale in October 2021. CryptoPunk 9998, crypto was sold for 123,457 ETH.

This was not just a flash loan, but it was an example of NFT money laundering.

How Does Wash Trade Work?

The Constant buying and selling of a crypto coin or NFT are known as wash trading. The concept of Wash Traders goes one step beyond, and it also considers the investor’s goal and outcome of the transaction into consideration.

Investors or traders that buy and sell assets with a common benefit in a short time period are engaging in wash trading. Traders across accounts with the same Beneficial Owner are a concern for financial regulators as they may be involved in money laundering. 

To trick regulatory bodies and manipulate the market, some wash traders don’t include any actual transactions. Wash trading can also happen when traders pretend to buy the assets without any money being exchanged.

Why Is Wash Trading Forbidden?

In traditional financing, wash trading is considered illegal and forbidden. When it comes to the decentralized NFTs, whether Wash trading is illegal or not is not defined yet. 

Even though there are no rules and regulations in the world of NFTs, several governments have established oppressing rules. For example, a South Korean crypto exchange “Bithumb” was charged by the government for promoting the wash trade. This trade was worth more than $250 million back in 2018. 

While crypto wash trading isn’t considered illegal in some countries, it is a challenge to figure out the offenders. This is due to the decentralized nature of the crypto and the NFT industry. Due to the anonymous nature of coins and NFTs, they can be purchased and sold repeatedly. This increases the risk of wash trading and money laundering. 

The risk is increased with fake prices and fake volume data. There’s no way for legit traders to uncover valid data until regulatory bodies in which countries or regions overseeing particular assets get involved. This is completely different from traditional financial trading assets such as equities, which are backed by customer verification protocols.

Role of NFTs in the Money Laundering Process

Money laundering is a huge concern when it comes to art trading. As NFTs are anonymous, many people question if NFTs can be used for money laundering. So, the question arises, can NFTs be used for money laundering?

The answer is Yes. Developers and scammers are using NFTs to launder money. As NFTs have an advantage over traditional banking methods, there is a lot of use of crypto assets for money laundering. 

As it’s difficult to quantify money laundering in the worth of physical art, NFTs don’t have that problem. NFTs provide a better idea of how much money is being laundered. Recently, most NFT marketplaces have become a hub for money laundering.

Why does Wash Trading Affect the NFT Market?

The reason is simple: traders use less liquid NFTs to affect an asset’s price. NFT Wash trading is a major issue for legit investors, the general public, and collectors. 

As investors have to rely on quantifiable data to make a decision, most of them end up making the wrong choices. Specialists have to look at data changes to promote NFT Investments and prevent the Wash trading scams. The NFT community is most riddled with scammers. Wash trading is becoming a common practice that regulators can use to fight the decentralized nature of the Crypto space. 

Due to wash trading, traders and investors are unable to make smart and informed decisions about their purchases. So, is there a way to identify wash trading in the NFT market?

When new coins are released in the market, they’re completely fresh and have no old data. Thus, developers and insiders may perform wash trading to boost the value of the coin. So, it’s better to stay away from such digital assets.

When it comes to NFTs, limited NFTs have investor interest or trading activities. So, the NFT owners get into wash trading to entice new traders to buy the NFT at an enormous cost. 

To not fall prey to wash trading scams, a trader should always focus on established crypto with higher volume. Scammers need more money to effectively manipulate the market. So, avoiding new currencies can prevent them from doing so.