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Australia's top finance cop, FBI conduct joint criminal probe on cryptocurrency

Wed, 28 Aug 2019, 03:50 am UTC

The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) will jointly conduct for the first time an “open criminal investigation” on cryptocurrency products, according to News Corp Australia.

The news was confirmed by ASIC Commissioner John Price, who revealed that a “range of people” who are believed to be involved are being targeted.

Amid the probe, Price warned consumers to be alert when making cryptocurrency investments.

Be very careful investing in crypto products unless you’re prepared to lose all of your money,” he said, noting that there is a growing concern on crypto-related scams and on cryptocurrencies purportedly being used to launder money.

The warning comes as information from Independent Reserve, a cryptocurrency exchange in Australia and New Zealand, found how much consumers are spending on cryptocurrencies, such as Bitcoin, Ripple, and Ether, the news outlet noted.

People are treating it more as an asset class … there are people using it as a currency but probably not as much as people just buying it and holding it,” Independent Reserve CEO Adrian Przelozny said, noting that trading among retirees has increased two-folds since January and Millennials account for over half of the trades.

He further noted that there is a steady increase from self-managed super funds (SMSFs), saying “With Bitcoin people like the fact it is quite scarce and predictable in the supply … kind of like the way people like investing in gold, the scarcity attracts people.”

SMSFs are a type of retirement account that are handled by individuals instead of a professional fund manager.

Ajeet Khurana, CEO of Zebpay, another international cryptocurrency exchange that recently opened in Australia, also admitted that the firm has seen significant growth among clients aged 25 and 40 years old and SMSF customers in their 50s.

Australia is one of few countries where people are officially storing retirement funds into crypto. That is very exciting to us,” he noted.

Notably, the probe comes after the Australian Tax Office recently issued 18,000 warning letters to investors of SMSFs for concentrating the majority of their retirement savings in cryptocurrencies. Under Australian law, investing more than 90% of retirement funds on a single class, such as property and cryptocurrency, is considered illegal, and non-compliance could see them face a fine of up to AU$2,400 (~US$1,618).

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