Australian authorities have brought down an illegal digital currency operation and arrested one of its alleged operators. The operation exchanged fiat currency for digital currencies and is alleged to have processed over A$5 million (US$3.24 million).
The police arrested a 52-year-old woman in Sydney believed to be a key player in a syndicate that has been operating the illegal exchange. They managed to seize $38,900 and 3.8 BTC from the woman, according to a report by Australian outlet 9news.
The woman was charged with dealing with proceeds obtained from crime as well as breaching a requirement regarding digital currency exchanges.
The police also raided a home in Hurstville, a suburb in southern Sydney where they managed to seize yet another $11,650 worth of BTC. They seized several mobile phones, computers and telephones believed to have been used in the operation.
The arrests are the result of an extensive investigation that began way back in November 2018 when the State Crime Command’s Cybercrime Squad formed a team to investigate online money laundering syndicates in the state of New South Wales in Australia. This team traced the activities to an underground exchange that wasn’t licensed by the authorities.
According to the lead detective on the operation, the digital currency wallets used by the exchanges have transacted over 326 BTC, worth over US$3.2 million at current rates. This is quite a large amount “for somebody who is not a registered digital currency exchange,” the detective said.
He added, “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. This will be the first of many arrests I believe we will make over the coming years and you’re being put on notice.”
The woman is set to appear at the Burwood Local Court on July 20 after the court granted her a strict conditional bail.
The police are concerned about the part that such underground exchanges play in promoting crime, with the detective stating, “It is concerning that when this kind of online exchange goes unregulated, it can allow criminals to move currency and launder funds seemingly undetected.”
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