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Former IRS-CI Chief Jim Lee: Why I’m Joining Chainalysis

After 29 years, including more than three as Chief of the IRS-CI, my last day of government service was March 31. Today, I’m excited to share that I’ve joined Chainalysis where I’ll continue to work with law enforcement, tax agencies, financial institutions and regulators around the world to help build their capacity to fight financial crime utilizing Chainalysis data and solutions.

Crypto is the future of finance, which also means it’s the future of crime

Over the course of my career in law enforcement, the illicit world has become increasingly more complex, with allied governments today confronting a myriad of threats from both a criminal and national security standpoint. But one thing has remained constant: Virtually all forms of crime are financially motivated. That means that any technological advancement in how we interact with money will inevitably become a tool for virtually all those involved in nearly all forms of crime, even if that advancement is net beneficial to humanity. Criminals are adaptable and always on the lookout for the next way they can exploit the public.

I’ve seen firsthand that this is the case for cryptocurrency. Crypto has brought greater transparency and efficiency to finance, and we’re still in the early innings. I believe that with time, this technology can continue to give people more control over their money and heighten financial inclusion around the world. However, criminals of all stripes have also been quick to adopt cryptocurrency. We fought against this in several notable cases during my time leading IRS-CI, including:

  • Shutting down Hydra, the world’s largest darknet market, where criminals sold everything from hard drugs to money laundering services
  • Conducting the largest ever crypto seizure connected to terrorism financing in an operation against Hamas’ al-Qassam Brigades
  • Rescuing 23 children and arresting 337 child abusers around the globe after taking down Welcome to Video, the world’s largest cryptocurrency CSAM marketplace

Those are just three examples, but they’re reflective of the fact that cryptocurrency is, at least in part, being used for a wide range of nefarious activities, and will only become more so as adoption grows. But by equipping law enforcement agencies with the best-in-class tools and data to fight this activity, we can ensure that the crypto ecosystem remains as safe as possible, so that people around the world can realize its many benefits without fear of being targeted by criminals.

You’ll also notice that Chainalysis played some role in all three of the cases I cited, whether by providing tools that aided the case directly or by alerting the public to criminal activity taking place. That brings me to why I chose to continue my mission at Chainalysis specifically: The company has led the way from the private sector in making cryptocurrency safe, just as I and my colleagues in law enforcement have done from the public sector. No other organization in the industry has more firmly placed itself on the side of justice, and I can’t think of a better place to continue my life’s work.

I can’t wait to get started

As Global Head of Capacity Building, I’ll be working to better enable the men and women in law enforcement to thwart many threats in parallel — just like I have been for the last 29 years — and will primarily focus on helping international agencies develop solutions against cryptocurrency-based crime to start. I’ll also have the chance to help crypto businesses and financial institutions in the private sector build and maintain robust compliance programs. These efforts will help Chainalysis in its mission to make the cryptocurrency ecosystem safer, and I can’t wait to get started.