Police in Victoria to target cryptocurrencies and other digital assets.
But is the reform justified?
Victorian Police will soon be granted new powers to seize cryptocurrency and digital assets from criminals, as well as compel platforms to hand over information about suspects.
According to a statement released by Victorian premier Daniel Andrews on Tuesday, new laws were introduced to Parliament with the aim of “cracking down on organised crime” in the state.
The Major Crime and Community Safety Legislation Amendment Bill 2022 will “strengthen” Victoria’s asset confiscation laws, giving authorities more power to “investigate, seize proceeds of crime and disrupt organised crime on the black market”.
Under the laws, police will get the power seize digital assets, including digital wallets, and will be able to compel cryptocurrency platforms to hand over information about suspects.
Officers will also be able to take electronic data when executing search warrants, such as taking copies of data from computers and storage devices.
Specialist police will be able to go undercover much more easily than before, with the officers no longer having to seek the permission from the Chief Commissioner of Police to use an “assumed identity”.
Furthermore, the requirement that victims’ compensation for proceeds of crime must relate to the same offence for which someone’s property was forfeited, is set to be removed.
Lastly, a conviction for possessing a “trafficable quantity” of firearms and/or drug materials will be the trigger the automatic forfeiture of assets.
The greater powers to seize digital assets are in response to ‘the growing use of cryptocurrencies by organised crime groups’, according to authorities.
But just how much of a role does these types of digital avenues actually contribute to crime activity?
Is this type of reform justified, or could there be a deeper agenda on the cards here?
A JUSTIFIED REFORM?
If we really want to focus on where the money is, we should look at government-backed, physical fiat.
According to the reports, it is estimated that between 2% and 5% of global GDP ($1.6 to $4 trillion) annually is connected with money laundering and illicit activity.
This is significantly higher in comparison to the use of cryptocurrency for crime.
According to a 2020 report by SWIFT (Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication): “Cases of laundering through cryptocurrencies remain relatively small compared to the volumes of cash laundered through traditional methods,” the report states.
Furthermore, statistics show even the majority of cryptocurrency is not used for criminal activity.
According to an excerpt from Chainalysis’ 2021 report, in 2019, criminal activity represented 2.1% of all cryptocurrency transaction volume (roughly $21.4 billion worth of transfers). In 2020, the criminal share of all cryptocurrency activity fell to just 0.34% ($10.0 billion in transaction volume).
This means, not only is criminal activity using cryptocurrency transactions much smaller than fiat currency, but its use is going down year by year.
Recent crashes in the cryptocurrency market have also turned away criminals from the appeal of use.
Are Victorian Police really doing this to ‘stop drug crime’, or is this a tool for more control?
This is the same force that called freedom protesters criminals for leaving their houses last year and deployed counter-terrorism squads to stalk, beat and arrest.
Are we to trust the definition of “criminal” won’t be expanded again?
If another lockdown were to occur, and more protests to happen, could they have their assets seized?
Authorities have been increasingly taking away rights, particularly in the online realm, under the pretext of stopping crime, including: Anti-encryption legislation, the Identify and Disrupt Bill and much more.
Should we trust that this time it is for our safety?
Furthermore, let’s address the meat of the bone: The ‘war on drugs’ is (and continues to be) a monumental failure — one of the most backwards policies of our generation.
The best way to defeat organised drug/weapon crime cartels is to decriminalise/legalise/regulate, generating taxes as you drive the illegal markets out with more appealing legal avenues.
Why is gun crime so out of control? Because only the criminals have them.
Why is drug crime so out of control? Because criminals are the only option.
Declaring ‘war’ on something for almost a century should tell you right there that it doesn’t work.
But you see, police can’t have a win. That’s not how it all works.
Actually defeating the problem would negatively impact the (private) prison-industrial-complex and their operations, for which all parties continue to be funded to keep in a perpetual cycle.
Authorities could solve these problems at any time if they wanted. As well as the deep-rooted elements that may cause issues of drug use or gang-related activities at the core of individuals.
So why do they continue to beat around the bush?
Some thoughts to keep in mind with the passing of these new laws.
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