Record $8.5 Million Crypto Seized in Australian Drug Bust

August 23, 2021, 9:30 AM AEST (updated August 25, 2021)

Victoria Police have seized what they claim is the largest ever cryptocurrency amount in connection with an Australian crime after busting online drug traffickers.

Detectives impounded nearly A$8.5 million in cryptocurrency after an investigation over several months culminated in the arrest of three Melbourne residents.

The arrests and currency are linked to a joint investigation by the Cyber Crime Squad and the Criminal Proceeds Squad into drug trafficking on dark web platform Silk Road, said to have been shut down by the FBI in 2012.

Money Laundering an Increasing Trend in Cyber Crime

Victoria Police commander Mick Frewen warned money laundering via crypto­currency is an expanding criminal trend.

“People go on [Silk Road] with the buyer confidence of a mainstream internet site and purchase drugs that are delivered to their door,” Frewen told The Australian newspaper.

“Not only is the user not needing to leave their lounge chair, neither is the offender.”

People are looking to hide their wealth through … real estate or cryptocurrency by virtue of its anonymity and to some extent its security; money can go offshore or to an offshore entity really quickly.

Victoria Police commander Mick Frewen

‘We Follow The Money’

Detectives picked up the offenders’ money trail after they spotted records of it on the distributed ledger blockchain, Frewen said.

He cautioned other would-be ­offenders they were far from anonymous, despite the common perception that dealing in cryptocurrency effectively conceals the identity of its traders.

[Organised criminals] will seek to hide their wealth any way they can. We follow the money. [Tackling organised crime] now isn’t just about identifying offenders or seizing drugs – it’s about the money. We seek to cripple their activities in any way we can where we make the most impact, and that is [through the] seizure of money – whether it be cash or cryptocurrency, real estate or shares.

Victoria Police commander Mick Frewen

Police arrested a 31-year-old woman from Melbourne’s northeast and two men, aged 30 and 33, from the city’s north. All were conditionally released pending further inquiries. Drugs including cannabis, magic mushrooms and MDMA were impounded along with two properties valued at about $2 million and vehicles worth about $100,000, taking the total value of seized assets to about $13.1 million.

Drugs Ordered Online, Imported by Mail

In June, Crypto News Australia reported on a Queensland IT student who was charged with possession of methamphetamine after ordering the drug online and paying for it with A$300 worth of bitcoin. In that case, the student was arrested after Australia Post intercepted a parcel bound for his parents’ address.

Last September, a port worker received a two-year sentence after attempting to import illegal substances via the dark web, also by post, to a Victorian coastal town. The Australian Border Force seized five parcels addressed to the defendant over a period of nine months, all of them paid for with cryptocurrency.

And exactly a year ago, Australian Federal Police confiscated crypto, designer goods, luxury cars and homes in a concerted campaign against the ill-gotten gains of organised crime.

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