Australian law enforcement has decided to set up a dedicated police group that would help in boosting crypto expertise and trace transactions related to cryptocurrencies.

New crypto unit

A new cryptocurrency unit has been established by the Australian Federal Police (AFP) that would be dedicated to monitoring transactions related to cryptocurrencies.

The national manager of the criminal asset confiscation department of the AFP, Stefan Jerga said that there has been a significant increase in the use of crypto for criminal activities since 2018.

This was back when the AFP had first seized cryptocurrency. Therefore, Jerga said that the AFP had decided in August that they needed to set up a crypto team.

The AFP decided to focus on illegal crypto transactions because the authority had not been expecting to seize as many crypto assets as it has seized so far.

On Monday, the AFP reported officially that it had managed to seize an amount of $600 million in cryptocurrency, two years earlier than it had expected to do so.

Originally, the Criminal Assets Confiscation Taskforce, which is led by the AFP, had established this target and had expected to reach it by 2024.

The AFP’s activities

The AFP has seized about $200 million in bank accounts and cash, $380 million in commercial and residential property, and $35 million in luxury items, boats, cars, artworks, aircraft, and cryptocurrencies.

According to Jerga, when compared to the ‘traditional’ criminal assets, such as cash and property, the crypto seizures were on a small scale, but they can get more insights with the additional focus now.

The AFP manager said that they had established a standalone team because of the environment, as they did not want officers to incorporate this particular skill set in their overall role.

He went on to say that being able to track crypto transactions on various blockchains was of the utmost importance, as were child protection, national security, and more.

Not completely anonymous

There had been some skepticism associated with the transparency that can be expected from cryptocurrencies.

This had been expressed by a representative of the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC) earlier this year.

John Moss, the deputy chief executive at AUSTRAC, had stated that the anonymity offered by cryptocurrencies allowed them to be used for international transactions quickly.

He stated that this added to their appeal to the criminal element, including neo-Nazi groups. While it is a popular belief that Bitcoin transactions are anonymous, this is a misconception.

Bitcoin transactions can be tracked publicly through blockchain explorers, which means that they are not completely anonymous.

Technically, it may be possible to operate a Bitcoin wallet anonymously, but it is becoming increasingly difficult for people to do so.

This is due to the fact that these transactions can be associated with the Know Your Customer (KYC) data that is provided by users on the platform they are using.

Therefore, it has now become possible to track and trace crypto-related transactions in many cases.