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  • Writer's pictureT Skevington and M Bacina

Arrest for unauthorised Australian digital currency exchange operator

In what police have described as an Australian first, an individual in New South Wales has been charged with operating a digital currency exchange in Australia without being registered with AUSTRAC.

The arrest arose out of a police investigation that began in November 2018, when detectives from the New South Wales Crime Command's Cybercrime Squad established Strike Force Kerriwah to investigate an online money laundering syndicate operating across NSW, unlawfully exchanging cash for cryptocurrency.

Commenting on the unique nature of the arrest, Cybercrime Squad Commander Detective Superintendent Matthew Craft said:

This particular investigation is believed to be an Australian first where unregistered cryptocurrency exchanges who operate have been identified and in this case prosecution commence

While details of the specific charges being made against the accused have yet to be determined, it appears that the accused will be charged with:-

  1. in a first for Australia, operating an unregistered digital currency exchange contrary to the Anti‑Money Laundering and Counter‑Terrorism Financing Act 2006 (AML/CTF Act); and

  2. the much more conventional money laundering offences, as set out in Part 10.2 of the Commonwealth Criminal Code, or Part 4AC of the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW).

Under section 76A of the AML/CTF Act, the penalty for providing a digital currency exchange service without being registered with AUSTRAC is imprisonment for 2 years, 500 penalty units ($105,000), or a combination of the two.

Detective Superintendent Matthew Craft also confirmed that a search warrant was executed at a home in Sydney's southern suburbs, where Bitcoin to the value of $18,000 was seized along with various mobile phones and computers.

As we have said before, digital currency is amazing for criminals, who want to get caught and leave a clear trail of evidence.


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