Australian crypto fraud just got a little harder. Federal Police have launched a new unit to tackle money laundering using cryptocurrencies.
Stefan Jerga is the national lead of criminal confiscation at the Australian Federal Police (AFP). He says the AFP formed the new task force to deal with the surge in illegal crypto use since the AFP’s first asset seizure in 2018. The unit has already surpassed its 2024 goal of stopping $600 million in illicit proceeds.
In addition to seizing assets, the new, dedicated team is providing invaluable tracing services to other divisions of the AFP. This is by being able to scrutinize transactions across multiple blockchains.
The idea for the new unit was sparked by an executive from AUSTRAC. They noted in April 2022 that crypto’s ability to travel across international borders seamlessly made them attractive for criminal activity. He added that as cryptos become more entrenched in the financial system, the more criminals try to exploit them.
Australian crypto fraud escalation
Since the AFP Commissioner Reece Kershaw formed the unit in Feb. 2020, it has seized $35 million in cars, crypto, and other luxury goods.
Jerga felt that the escalation of crypto-related criminal activity since the AFP’s first seizure in 2018 warranted a new team of specialists rather than police officers trying to acquire additional skills. As Be[In]Crypto reported earlier this year, the AFP said cryptocurrency scams had “exploded” during the Covid-19 pandemic. This further necessitated more direct law enforcement activity.
According to Jerga, the new unit’s responsibility, in addition to stopping crime, is to upset the organization of criminal syndicates through forensic intelligence. The team will also attempt to curb fraud at its genesis rather than look to recover lost proceeds.
Ian McCartney, the AFP deputy commissioner of investigations, said criminals hate agile police teams that are able to reach deep into cyberspace to disrupt their activity.
He also added that fraud such as money laundering robs the Australian government of resources needed to service its people. A task force labeled the Serious Financial Crime Task Force was formed in 2015 to prevent this multi-million dollar loss in revenue. Funds recovered from fraud are held in a particular government account for confiscated assets for use in community projects.
FBI and DOJ employ counterterrorism measures to deal with crypto and cyber crime
On Feb. 17, 2022, the Federal Bureau of Investigation announced the imminent launch of a cryptocurrency unit. Called the Virtual Asset Exploitation Unit, it is targeted at upsetting criminal syndicates and economics. This is after a 2021 Chainalysis report revealed in 2021 that almost $11 billion in cryptocurrencies had questionable sources. Like the AFP, the FBI wants to leverage its tools to catch cybercrime early in its evolution, similar to the counterterrorism methods employed post 9/11.
The Virtual Asset Exploitation Unit is designed to work with a team of prosecutors from the U.S. Justice Department.
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