An Australian cryptocurrency exchange and bitcoin exchange is planning to start trading in the country, after being told by authorities that the US government has seized the money from its US customers.
On the same day that the New York Times reported that US authorities had seized $2.5bn worth of bitcoins from a US account, CryptoCoinsNews, an Australian cryptocurrency mining and trading company, announced it would begin trading in Australia.
The announcement comes on the same night that a US official said the US was planning to seize the funds of several crypto-currency exchanges, including CryptoCoin, for US government purposes.
The move comes as Australian authorities have warned that a crackdown on the cryptocurrency industry is threatening the stability of the nation’s financial system and has led to the closure of two cryptocurrency exchanges.
The Australian Securities and Investment Commission has launched a probe into whether the Australian government has breached the laws governing money laundering, tax evasion and money laundering.
A spokeswoman for the ASIC said it was investigating whether the Bitcoin and cryptocurrency trading industry “is being regulated in accordance with the anti-money laundering laws in Australia”.
“The ASIC is currently assessing the potential for regulatory action by the Australian Financial Services Commission, the Australian Securities Commission and the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA) and the APRA is seeking advice from ASIC to assess the regulatory implications of the proposed regulatory action,” the spokeswoman said.
The ICO said it would hold an initial public offering in the US and would launch a public listing later this year.
“We will continue to work with regulators in the United States and other jurisdictions to ensure our products and services are compliant with Australian law,” a spokesperson said.
“As we enter into new areas of investment opportunities, we expect our products to be subjected to a fair and open process, and to comply with the laws of the jurisdictions where we operate.”
The spokesperson said the ICO had “not received any official request to conduct a review into the US investigation”.
CryptoCoinsnews, which has a turnover of around $1m, said it had been told it was being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and had not been served with a search warrant.
The bureau declined to comment on the matter, and did not respond to an email request for comment from ABC News.
Australian authorities said they were working to determine how the funds were stolen.
“The funds have been recovered by the authorities in a criminal investigation, and it is important to note that we have not received any request to take any further action,” an ASIC spokesperson said in a statement.
“An Australian Financial Crimes Commission (AFCC) spokesperson would not comment on specific investigations.”
In a separate development, the US Federal Bureau (FBI), which has been leading the investigation into cryptocurrencies, said on Monday it was looking into the sale of bitcoin futures contracts on exchanges in the UK.
CryptoFunds, a London-based company that offers trading of futures contracts, told ABC News it had received a “prospective” request from the UK government to investigate a potential exchange breach.
Cryptocurrencies are used for online payments, and trading in them has been seen as a potential avenue for criminal organisations to launder money.
The US Department of Justice (DOJ) said it “does not believe that any criminal activities involved in the creation of crypto-currencies have occurred”.
“There are also no known victims of any criminal activity involving cryptocurrencies or crypto-assets in the USA,” the DOJ said in the statement.
The DOJ also noted that the exchange is based in the EU and the US is not a party to the European Convention on Human Rights.
The DOJ said the investigation “could potentially have an impact on crypto-economic transactions”.
“We cannot predict with certainty whether these transactions are being carried out by criminals or not,” it said.
A spokesperson for CryptoFunds told ABC that the firm “has been working closely with the US authorities in the past to understand how the crypto-futures market is being regulated and we are not aware of any specific instances of any UK government enforcement action against the company”.
The spokesperson added that CryptoFund is “unaware of any current legal or regulatory actions or enforcement actions taken against the CryptoFund website or any of its customers”.
In an email sent to ABC News, CryptoFund said it believed its products were compliant with UK law.
“Crypto-finance is a legal activity which is regulated in all parts of the UK and we believe our products comply with all relevant regulations,” it wrote.
“Any potential compliance issues are subject to a thorough investigation by the relevant regulatory authorities.”