Australia’s “Bitcoin bill” passes both Houses

Maria Nikolova

The Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorism Financing Amendment Bill 2017 has gotten the approval of the Senate.

Sydney Australia

A follow-up to FinanceFeeds’ earlier article about the progress that the Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorism Financing Amendment Bill 2017, also known as the “Bitcoin bill”, is making through Australia’s Parliament…

On December 7, 2017, the document had its three readings at the Senate and has now successfully passed both Houses of Parliament. The document, in the version passed by both Houses, will be presented to the Governor-General for assent.

The “Bitcoin bill” proposes changes to the current AML/CTF law by modernizing it to take into account digital currencies like Bitcoin. Under the bill, businesses that trade digital currencies for money, and vice versa, will be required to:

  • enroll and register with AUSTRAC;
  • establish, implement and maintain an AML/CTF program, which sets the framework for businesses to comply with their obligations, including customer due diligence requirements;
  • report threshold transactions and suspicious matters to AUSTRAC, and
  • keep appropriate records.

The extent of penalties proposed remained the same in version of the bill passed by both Houses. The penalties commence from imprisonment for 2 years and/or 500 penalty units for those who violate the requirement for registration with AUSTRAC for providing digital currency exchange services. The penalty may reach 7 years of imprisonment and a fine of 2,000 penalty units if the AUSTRAC CEO gave the person a direction in relation to violations of registration rules and accepted undertakings given by the person in relation to registration violations on numerous occasions.

The bill’s provisions are poised to be the first phase in a multiple-stage reform effort to update the Australian anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing regime. The reforms are necessary to adequately reflect the role digital currencies play in the modern economy.

The document aims to deter criminals from using convertible digital currencies to move illicit funds and avoid detection, as well as to facilitate the collection of transactional information about exchanges in digital currency for use by law enforcement, intelligence and national security agencies.

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