Australian crypto firms told Senate inquiry they had been unbanked up to 91 times
Crypto-related businesses and figures have provided evidence of being debanked by Australian financial institutions during a Senate investigation.
On Wednesday, crypto investment firm Aus Merchant, global remittance provider Nium and small peer-to-peer crypto brokerage platform Bitcoin Babe spoke on a panel as part of the investigation of the Senate on “Australia as a Technology and Financial Centre”.
All three are registered with the financial intelligence regulator AUSTRAC and are subject to reporting requirements; however, they all echoed similar sentiments of being unbanked with no concrete explanation of why.
Michaela Juric, the founder of the peer-to-peer trading firm nicknamed after her moniker “Bitcoin Babe”, said she had been banned by a total of 91 banks and financial institutions in her seven years history in crypto:
“Since yesterday, I have been banned and unbanked from 91 banks and financial institutions. That’s 91 lifetime bans. No reason given, no case-by-case assessment or discussion initiated and no recourse available.
At today’s Senate hearings on crypto regulation, the session opens with @ausfintech testify about #debanking: CEO says no area of fintech suffers more than the crypto sector, saying ‘Australia will be left behind’
— Chloe White (@ChloeWhiteAus) September 7, 2021
Bitcoin Babe uses exchanges such as Local Bitcoins to transact in Australia, and according to her profile on the website, she has transacted over 40,000 since 2014 with a feedback score of 98%.
Although she has a good reputation online, Juric told crypto-friendly Senator Andrew Bragg that some banks have even flagged her as a terrorist due to the nature of her business:
“Banks went so far as to flag me as a terrorist in certain databases, and that’s what prevented me from getting some of these services.”
It is disturbing to hear about the personal impact of unbanking on people trying to start a small business. Banks have said that the driver of debanking is the lack of a regulatory framework for digital assets. This is what we have to fix and we will force the banks to do it.
— Senator Andrew Bragg (@ajamesbragg) September 8, 2021
Nium, headquartered in Singapore, is licensed in 40 markets around the world; however, the company said Australia is the only country where it has had issues with financial service providers.
Michael Minassian, Asia-Pacific head of consumer business at Nium, said the firm believed there were ‘non-competitive practices’ being carried out with unbanking, while he questioned the reasons why. “opaque” that banks offered when reducing business services:
“They are very vague as to why they are stopping providing banking services to you. Some bankers have given me verbal reasons as policy changes within the bank etc. but essentially areas like remittances are becoming too difficult for the banks.
“It’s costly for them to try to establish frameworks that they can authorize banking, so it’s easier for them to stop providing services,” he added.
Mitchell Travers, co-founder of New South Wales-based crypto investment platform Aus Merchant, said that with little reasoning provided behind the platform’s unbanning, it was due to “the banks’ ‘risk avoidance’.
“As far as I know, it was an attitude of risk avoidance, risk aversion, where the reasoning was that we were outside the scope of services of these banks, and we did not not had the opportunity to provide enhanced due diligence procedures,” he said.
Related: Afterpay Tells Senate Inquiry That Crypto Could Lower Merchant Payment Costs
Senator Bragg responded by stating, “Okay, I see your registration with AUSTRAC is worth nothing to a bank, it looks like.”
The Commonwealth Bank (ABC) provided a submission to the survey explaining its practices and stating that it applies “proportionate systems and controls to mitigate and manage” anti-money laundering and anti-terrorist financing risk.
“In circumstances where a client’s source of funds and source of wealth cannot be determined, or where their account activity is inconsistent with known business activities, the group takes appropriate steps to mitigate and manage its ML/FT risk,” The CBA said in its brief.