On March 7, 2019, the Australian Federal Police arrested a 27-year-old man for his alleged involvement in drug trafficking. The AFP reportedly executed search warrants in the Bulleen, Templestowe Lower, and Malvern suburbs, where they seized steroids, Australian dollars, and cryptocurrency from the accused.
Australia’s financial intelligence agency, AUSTRAC, suspended the registration of two digital currency exchanges following the arrest of the unnamed individual, stating that a connection was found between him and the exchanges.
The AFP and AUSTRAC began investigations into various drug trafficking offenses as early as October 2017. The authorities arrested two men in connection with the same. In its press release, the AFP said that current investigations and searches were a continuation of the 2017 investigation. The authorities have been tracking the arrested man for suspicious activities ever since.
The arrested was reportedly found to be in possession of 30 kilograms of drugs, including MDMA, cocaine, methamphetamine, and ketamine. So far, he has been charged with importing and trafficking drugs. Given his links to cryptocurrencies, the AFP will likely argue that he used dark web marketplaces, Bitcoin (BTC) wallets, and quasi-legitimate businesses to import drugs into Australia.
Meanwhile, the Criminal Assets Confiscation Taskforce (CACT) approached the court to obtain a restraint order on the seized assets. In response, the County Court of Victoria issued orders to seize assets worth $2 million. The attached assets include real estate properties, motor vehicles, cash, and cryptocurrency.
According to AUSTRAC, the unnamed accused is a vital member of both digital currency exchanges under review and has strong links to the drug trafficking racket. There remains a possibility that the accused used these exchanges to facilitate crypto payments for drug trafficking.
The accused faces charges such as section 307.1(1), 307.2(1), 302.4(1), 302.3(1), 307.8(1), and 307.9(1) of the Australian Criminal Code. He faces a maximum penalty of life imprisonment in two offenses, jail term of up to 25 years in two offenses, and a maximum prison term of 10 years in one offense.
Dr. Nathan Newman, AUSTRAC National Manager, Regulatory Operations, praised the AUSTRAC and the AFP for their joint efforts in tackling this complex case. He said that the role of the agency was to deter and disrupt criminal activities in the finance sector, which it did when it suspended the license of two cryptocurrency exchanges.
It remains to be seen if more exchanges face scrutiny in further investigations.
What do you think will happen to the assets of users that had accounts or held crypto at the two digital currency exchanges? Let us know in the comments below!
Images courtesy of Shutterstock.