AUSTRAC suspends crypto currency exchanges after AFP investigation

Two Australian Bitcoin exchanges shut down following arrest of key executive

The AFP reportedly executed search warrants in the Bulleen, Templestowe Lower, and Malvern suburbs, where they seized steroids, Australian dollars, and cryptocurrency from the accused.

The investigation dates back to 2017 when the AFP had arrested two Victorian men for importing drugs to Australia. These changes included increasing the scope of the Act to feature regulation of cryptocurrency exchange providers.

The raid led the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC) to ban two bitcoin exchanges in their connection to illegal drug trades.

The shutdown of these exchanges followed the arrest of a Melbourne man aged 27-years old on the charges of drug trafficking offenses by the Australian Federal Police on Thursday.

The 27-year-old Bulleen man was subsequently arrested and charged with importing, trafficking and possessing a total of approximately 30 kilograms of drugs, such as MDMA, cocaine, methamphetamine and ketamine.

"Digital currency exchange providers have had adequate time and opportunity to comply with these new laws and AUSTRAC has already refused the registration of two digital currency exchange providers", he said. AFP Detective Superintendent Paul Hopkins stated, "Investigations such as this are inherently complex and the operational results achieved by the investigative team are a testament to good police work and strong interagency cooperation".

Two Australian Bitcoin exchanges shut down following arrest of key executive
Victorian man arrested in connection to cryptocurrency-related drug syndicate

Separately, the AFP-led Criminal Assets Confiscation Taskforce (CACT) obtained a restraining order for assets related to the investigation.

Police ultimately took property valued in excess of $2 million, including cash, cryptocurrency, a motorbike (and motor vehicles), several bank accounts, and various real estate properties.

AUSTRAC National Manager of Regulatory Operations, Dr Nathan Newman, says the two crypto exchanges the arrested man was involved in won't be able to operate until further notice.

The anti-money laundering and counter-terrorist financing watchdog later issued a joint press release with the NSW Police Force, reminding the Australian bitcoin exchanges to either comply or face prosecution. All customers must verify their identity with the companies and the entities are required to report "suspicious" activity surrounding transactions.

Following the arrests, AUSTRAC suspended the registration of two digital currency exchange businesses where the man was a key member, removing their ability to continue to conduct business.

"Any information about illicit activity by digital currency exchange providers that is provided to our squad - whether related to organised crime, terrorism, or technology-enabled crime - will be actively pursued in partnership with AUSTRAC". There remains a possibility that the accused used these exchanges to facilitate crypto payments for drug trafficking.

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