The Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC) has pulled the plug on two cryptocurrency exchange companies in the country. The move comes after a key executive in both of the operations was arrested by police on Thursday following a series of raids that were conducted by the Australian Federal Police (AFP), which had been investigating organized crime in the country. The executive was reportedly involved in a side business that included the importation and trafficking of illegal drugs.
The unidentified 27-year-old executive has been charged with importing, possessing and trafficking around 30kg of drugs. Among those confiscated were cocaine, methamphetamines, ketamine and MDMA, also known as ecstasy. He allegedly played a “key role” in managing the operations of a crime syndicate that employed dark net sites, crypto accounts and even legitimate businesses in order to source and distribute the drugs.
An investigation by the AFP began two years ago after two men from Victoria were arrested and tied to a drug importation ring. The AFP followed the trails and gathered evidence before swooping in this week to bust up the criminal organization. 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.”
The two exchanges that were shut down by AUSTRAC were identified as AUSCOIN ATM and MK Buy & Sell, which operates as SK BTC. AUSTRAC’s Dr. Nathan Newman, the organization’s National Manager of Regulatory Operations, said that they would be suspended until further notice. He added, “AUSTRAC’s role is to deter and disrupt criminal exploitation of Australia’s financial system and we take swift action where we there is a reasonable risk of compromise. Our decision to suspend the registration of the two businesses means they can no longer lawfully operate.”
Since the end of 2017, AUSTRAC has had the authority to monitor crypto exchange companies to ensure that they comply with Australia’s anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism laws, the same way it does with banks. All customers must verify their identity with the companies and the entities are required to report “suspicious” activity surrounding transactions.
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