Law enforcement in Australia is enhancing crypto expertise and tracking crypto transactions by creating a dedicated police group.
The Australian Federal Police (AFP) has created a new cryptocurrency unit to focus on monitoring crypto-related transactions, The Australian Financial Review reported on Monday.
The use of cryptocurrencies in criminal activity has increased exponentially since AFP seized its first cryptocurrency in early 2018, said Stefan Jirga, national director of AFP’s Criminal Asset Seizure Command. In response, AFP decided to form Dedicated Crypto Team Gerga noted that in August.
The growing focus on illicit crypto transactions comes amid AFP’s seizure of far more criminal assets than the authority originally expected. AFP officially reported, Monday, that it had reached its goal of seizing $600 million in financial crimes two years ahead of schedule. The goal was originally set by the AFP-led Criminal Asset Seizure Task Force and was expected to be reached by 2024.
Since February 2020, AFP has seized $380 million in residential and commercial real estate, $200 million in cash and bank accounts, and $35 million in cars, boats, planes, artwork, luxury goods, and cryptocurrency. Jirga noted that crypto seizures were small compared to “traditional” criminal assets such as property and cash, but the additional focus is expected to provide further insights.
According to the AFP director, the environment led to the creation of an independent team, unlike many officers “to select some of these skills as part of their overall role.” He added that the ability to track encrypted transactions via the blockchain is “really important” along with national security, child protection and more.
Earlier this year, an official at the Australian Transaction Reporting and Analysis Center (AUSTRAC) expressed doubts about the transparency of cryptocurrencies. AUSTRAC Executive Vice President John Moss argues that cryptocurrency can be used anonymously, quickly and across international borders, making it “attractive to criminals,” including neo-Nazi groups.
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Contrary to popular belief, which assumes that Bitcoin (BTC) is anonymous, Bitcoin transactions are not anonymous. Instead, it can be tracked publicly through blockchain explorers. While it is technically possible to operate a BTC wallet anonymously, it is becoming increasingly difficult to conduct BTC transactions anonymously because transactions are often associated with users’ KYC data.