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Australian Federal Police forms cryptocurrency unit, AFR reports

Updated: Sep 7, 2022

The Australian Federal Police (AFP) has set up a new cryptocurrency unit, according to a report from the Australian Financial Review (AFR).

The new unit will focus on money laundering and comes as the AFP has seen a significant uptick in crypto being used in criminal activity, Stefan Jerga, the national manager of the AFP’s criminal asset confiscation command, told AFR.

“It’s targeting assets, but it’s also providing that valuable, investigative tracing capability and lens for all of our commands across all of our businesses, whether they’re national security-related, child protection, cyber — or the ability to trace cryptocurrency transactions across the relevant blockchains is really, really important,” said Jerga in the article.

The agency will not be receiving additional powers to seize assets, according to the article.

The AFP famously made a 2,000% return in one of its first crypto seizure cases. In 2016, it began proceedings to seize around $5,000 of bitcoin — but by the time the force was able to get its hands on it, the value had increased to $105,000.

The new crypto unit comes as Austrac, the Australian government financial intelligence agency, warns that crypto criminals are exploiting the system.

Austrac deputy chief executive John Moss said cryptocurrencies were attractive to criminals because they could be used anonymously, quickly and across international borders.

The Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) recently announced that it’s exploring Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDCs) use cases through a new research project.

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