Australian Police Makes Record Crypto Seizure With Dark Web Drug Bust
Australia’s Victoria Police have collected close to AUD 8.5m (USD 6m) worth of cryptocurrency in its recent clampdown on dark web drug trafficking. The bust, which targeted a number of properties in the country’s south-eastern state of Victoria, is said to be Australia’s biggest crypto seizure to date.
During the raids, Australian law enforcement arrested a 31-year-old Kinglake woman and a 30-year-old Preston man, Victoria Police said in a statement. The Kinglake resident was charged with cannabis possession and they were both released. In addition to this, a 33-year-old Preston man was arrested and cautioned for cannabis possession.
The cryptocurrency is understood to be bitcoin (BTC), and the police find that the two suspects could be connected to Silk Road - the first modern darknet market that the US authorities shut down in 2013, The Sydney Morning Herald reported.
Silk Road founder Ross Ulbricht is serving a double life sentence. Last November, nearly USD 1bn BTC believed to be from the infamous darknet market got moved, for the first time in five years. One of the theories was that Ulbricht or a Silk Road vendor could have been moving their funds, though it wasn't very likely that Ulbricht was able to transfer bitcoin from prison.
Mick Frewen, Victoria Police Crime Commander, said that, as part of the latest operation, the police have also taken over a number of valuable assets, including properties and vehicles. In total, the seized assets are valued at some AUD 13.1m (USD 9.3m), according to the statement.
“This is the 21st century version of drug trafficking and money laundering, with criminals using technology to enable immense amounts of community harm and misery," Frewen said in the statement.
“These people have not come to police notice at all. They’ve amassed extensive wealth all from the keyboard in their own living room,” he was quoted as saying by The Sydney Morning Herald.
The police commander said that, while they may be a perception that online drug trafficking is a ‘safer’ option for criminals or less likely to lead to detection by law enforcement, this was not the case.
“Police actively work on these forums and receive information from a wide range of sources including our Australian and international law enforcement partners,” according to Frewen. “This result is also strongly demonstrates the importance of asset confiscation and ensuring that those involved in serious and organised crime do not retain any benefits from their criminal activity.”
The drug bust is the outcome of an investigation by the force’s Cyber Crime Squad and Criminal Proceeds Squad that dates back to 2012. Victoria Police launched a new investigation earlier this year after receiving information from a federal agency.
Bitcoin was first seized by Victoria Police in 2013, after the arrest of a drug trafficker. Police found three wallets containing BTC 24,518. At the time of the man's arrest at the end of 2021, that BTC was worth some USD 700,000. It would now be worth USD 1.16trn.