In response to an increase in cryptocurrency-related crimes, Australia's Federal Police has established a new unit to combat money laundering, according to the Australian Financial Review on September 5.
According to Australian Federal Police (AFP) criminal asset confiscation head Stefan Jerga, the new unit was established in August after the illicit use of digital currency increased significantly in 2018.
He said that the unit is "not only is it targeting assets, but it's also giving that valuable investigative tracing capability and lens for all of our orders throughout all of our businesses, even if they're national security-related, child protection, cyber - or the ability to trace digital currency transactions from across relevant blockchains is really, really vital."
In April, the AUSTRAC, a government financial intelligence agency, warned that cryptocurrencies are becoming increasingly profitable for criminals. According to AUSTRAC's deputy chief executive, the confidentiality and ease of cross-border transactions in crypto make the asset class appealing to Neo-Nazis.
According to reports, Australians lost approximately $26 million in 2021 as a result of crypto-related scams. Another report in June from The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission showed that Australians lost around AU$205 million due to fraud between January and May 1, 2022. However, the exact figure is much higher. Despite this, the reported amount represented a 166% rise in crypto scam losses over the same period last year.
The team was established after the AFP exceeded its aim of seizing $600 million in proceeds of crime two years early. The new group was also formed with the goal of targeting criminals' wealth, which has resulted in "better-than-expected" results in the past, according to Jerga.
The idea for establishing the specialized unit was fueled by the fact that, while digital currencies make up a small portion of criminal assets, primarily property and cash, there was a need for additional intelligence and deep insight, according to Jerga.