Australian government watching all Bitcoin-to-AUD conversions

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In a report published earlier today on ZDNet, a representative from the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (Austrac) confirmed that the Australian government are tracking every visible conversion of Bitcoin into and out of Australian dollars (AUD). The anti-money laundering agency’s CEO, John Schmidt, made the statement while giving a statement before Australia’s Senate yesterday.

“Australia is very fortunate among its international counterparts, in that we are one of the few countries which currently collects all international funds transfers, into or out of Australia,” Schmidt told lawmakers. “At some point, a person will be purchasing bitcoin using Australian dollars, for example, and then if they are dealing in substances or services, will want to convert those bitcoins back into the legitimate currencies of where ever they are, so they can gain the benefit of them.”

By using international funds transfers instructions and “other intelligence sources,” Austrac claims to be able to track Bitcoin-to-AUD conversions anywhere across the globe.

Schmidt’s agency appears to have a neutral view of Bitcoin, currently treating the cryptocurrency much the same as a commodity like gold. He did note, however, that the agency is linking Bitcoin/AUD transactions to relevant illegal transactions, including at least one case where such a conversion was tried to a drug shipment.

According to ZDNet, some key parts of the Bitcoin ecosystem are still outside of Austrac’s view.

Schmidt did say that Austrac was not able to quantify, even within an order of magnitude, the size of the bitcoin market in Australia, and that the agency does not consider bitcoin to pose a major threat.

… “[At] this point in time, when you consider all the existing threats we face from the criminal perspective, [Bitcoin is] not top of the list.”

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