Unregistered crypto exchange busted in Australia, owner arrested

Detectives from the e-Crime Squad in Cairnlea, Victoria, have arrested a local man allegedly involved in running an unregistered cryptocurrency exchange service.

The law enforcement officials seized “a substantial amount of cash and false identification documents,” along with an automated teller machine (ATM) housed at a local Melbourne shopping center, which was believed to be part of the alleged cryptocurrency scam.

The 38-year-old man is currently under investigation for two offenses against the Commonwealth. These include Section 76A(5) of the Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorism Financing Act 2006 (Cth) and Section 400.9 of the Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth).

The first deals with him running a digital currency exchange service without receiving the proper licensure to do so. Authorities said the man had been informed in November 2018 to cease and desist all operations of this exchange but continued to operate, ignoring the order. The second deals with him acquiring property that was likely part of an illegal enterprise.

The investigation into the man began in June after the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC) tipped law enforcement about an ATM being used in some form of fraudulent activity.

The Victoria police partnered with the AUSTRAC in the investigation. This was one of the first conducted by the e-Crime Squad in regards to digital currency transactions.

Australian law enforcement officials are becoming experts in these types of scams. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) issued a statement in August stating that victims of these types of scams lost a record A$14.76 million in the first seven months of this year alone.

That same month, law enforcement officials charged five individuals who were involved in a cold call currency investment scam that victimized over 100 people. The combined loss reached A$2.7 million. August also saw an Australian couple lose A$900,000 in another scam.

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