Australian banks reportedly freezing accounts tied to crypto-activities

Users have been slamming the banks on social media, threatening to remove accounts

Ramy Caspi
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Bitcoin investors are claiming Australia’s banks are freezing their accounts and transfers to cryptocurrency exchanges, with a viral tweet slamming the big four and an exchange platform putting a restriction on Australian deposits.

After hundreds of shares and responses to the social media posts calling the banks’ alleged behaviour “disgusting” and “appalling” with some threatening to move their accounts, some users said their activities with the cryptocurrency had still been described as a “security risk” by their financial institutions.

The banks in question are National Australia Bank, ANZ, the Commonwealth Bank of Australia and Westpac Banking Corporation. Customers are claiming that the banks are blocking transfers to the exchanges CoinJar, Coinbase, CoinSpot, and BTC Markets, and/or freezing the accounts of customers who attempt to use them. The banks are either denying that this is true, or giving opaque answers.

A spokesperson for National Australia Bank said: “While we don’t support unregulated currencies, NAB does not deny the right of individual customers to buy virtual currencies.”

A Westpac spokeswoman stated to the SMH: “Where we cannot verify the origin of transfers we may act to ensure we comply with Australia’s anti-money laundering obligations.”

Commonwealth Bank has specifically excluded cryptocurrency activity from online banking activities since June 2017, reserving the right to refuse a transaction “because the destination account previously has been connected to a fraud or an attempted fraudulent transaction or is an account used to facilitate payments to Bitcoins or similar virtual currency payment services”.

A Commonwealth Bank spokesman said: “Our customers can interact with these currencies as long as they comply with our terms and conditions and all relevant legal obligations.”

Earlier this month, Australia passed a law requiring that Bitcoin exchanges register with the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre, the agency which watches for money laundering and terrorism-financing. The law introduced jail time and fines for the crime of operating an unregulated cryptocurrency exchange, bringing cryptocurrency more in line with fiat currency in this regard.