Cops target criminal use of bitcoin

Australian police are tracking the use of virtual currencies such as bitcoin on internet black markets.

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Investigators at the Australian Crime Commission are monitoring bitcoin-enabled crime in an operation named Project Longstrike, strategy chief Judy Lind revealed on Wednesday.

“A range of virtual currencies including bitcoin are used as payment methods to facilitate illicit trade on the darknet,” she said in a statement.

“Virtual currencies can be used anonymously and provide a layer of anonymity in addition to that provided by the darknet.”

The darknet describes a shadowy corner of the internet where deals can be done and information exchanged behind a cloak of anonymity.

It is popular with criminals buying and selling child exploitation material, drugs, guns, stolen financial information and hacking techniques.

Project Longstrike follows operations in 2012 and 2013 which developed technology capable of tracing bitcoin transactions, Ms Lind said.

Details of the operation come a week after Australia extradited to the US a Queensland man accused of being one of the primary moderators of the online marketplace Silk Road.

Virtual currencies, particularly bitcoin, are slowly gaining momentum in Australia as more companies begin to accept them as payment.

The Australian Taxation Office this year released guidance on tax treatment, while a parliamentary inquiry is looking at ways to strengthen the regulatory framework.

Ronald Tucker from the Australian Digital Currency Commerce Association denied bitcoin is more susceptible to illicit activity than any other form of payment.

He urged digital currency businesses to help combat those “who wish to use bitcoin for the wrong purposes”.

“ADCCA and our members continue to work with key law enforcement agencies in Australia to ensure the highest levels of consumer protection,” he said.