Australia watchdog suspends two cryptocurrency exchanges for drug offences
SYDNEY, March 8 (Reuters) - Australia's anti-money
laundering watchdog said on Friday it had suspended licences of
two cryptocurrency exchanges after a police investigation found
the businesses were being exploited for drug trafficking.
It was the first such suspension by the Australian
Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre, or AUSTRAC, since new
legislation in April 2018 brought digital currency exchanges
under its umbrella to ensure cryptocurrencies were monitored the
same way as cash exchanges and transfers.
Various estimates show cryptocurrency crime is on the rise
globally, keeping pace with the market's rapid growth.
A recent study revealed the value of cryptocurrencies stolen
from exchanges and scammed from investors surged more than 400
percent in 2018 to about $1.7 billion.
In a joint statement with AUSTRAC, the Australian Federal
Police (AFP) said they arrested a 27-year old man, a "key
member" of the suspended cryptocurrency businesses, and charged
him with importing, trafficking and possessing about 30 kg of
drugs including cocaine.
The man is suspected of playing a major role in directing
the operations of the criminal syndicate which used various dark
net sites, bitcoin accounts and legitimate business for the
sourcing, payment and distribution of the illicit drugs, police
"While cash is still 'king', digital currencies are fast
becoming the preferred choice for organised criminal networks
involved in money laundering, funding terrorism, and
cybercrimes," Cybercrime Squad commander, Detective
Superintendent Matt Craft said in a press release.
"Let this be a warning to digital currency exchange
providers: if you fail to comply with your obligations, your
actions will not go unnoticed."
(Reporting by Swati Pandey
Editing by Robert Birsel)
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