The Australian Federal Police has set up a dedicated unit for tracing and seizing cryptocurrency linked to criminal activity, operating as part of its Criminal Assets Confiscation Taskforce (CACT).
The national manager of the CACT, Stefan Jerga, told the Australian Financial Review that the taskforce felt a standalone team was necessary to tackle the growing use of crypto by criminals, “rather than a lot of officers picking up some of this skill set as part of their overall role.”
The crypto unit, set up in August, has a dual role of targeting assets as well as “providing that valuable, investigative tracing capability and lens for all of our commands,” said Jerga. “The ability to trace cryptocurrency transactions across the relevant blockchains is really, really important,” for areas including national security, child protection, and cyber, he added.
Jerga’s remarks came as the Australian Federal Police announced that the CACT had confiscated over AU$600 million ($408 million) in illicit funds and property, including AU$35 million ($23.8 million) in vehicles, artworks, and cryptocurrency, since 2020.
According to the Australian Federal Police, in February 2020, confiscation became a top priority for the CACT; with a target figure of AU$600 million seized by 2024, it is running two years ahead of schedule.
Australian law enforcement and crypto
Cryptocurrency has recently been a significant focus for Australian lawmakers and enforcement agencies. Last month, the Australian treasury announced a multi-step plan to establish a crypto regulatory framework.
The framework aims to be more thorough and informed and includes what the treasury calls “token mapping,” allowing government officials to track trends in the Australian crypto market.
Global policymakers have pointed to the use of cryptocurrency by cybercriminals to call for regulations and bans on digital assets. Last month, the U.S. Treasury Department added Ethereum mixing service Tornado Cash to its Specially Designated Nationals list, citing its use in money laundering by cybercriminal groups, including the North Korean Lazarus Group.
In June, a report from the U.S. Department of Justice called for federal agencies to share more information on the use of crypto by criminals with foreign law enforcement agencies. The report noted that crypto transactions are “permanently recorded” on the blockchain, creating opportunities for law enforcement to “follow the money in ways that are not possible with traditional financial systems.”