Crypto-related companies and figures have provided evidence about being de-banked by Australian financial institutions to a Senate inquiry.
Crypto investment firm Aus Merchant, global remittance provider Nium and small peer-to-peer crypto brokerage platform Bitcoin Babe were speaking on a panel as part of the Senate inquiry into “Australia as a Technology and Financial Centre” on Wednesday.
All three are registered with financial intelligence regulator AUSTRAC and are subject to reporting requirements; however, they all echoed similar sentiments of being de-banked without a concrete explanation as to why.
Michaela Juric, the founder of the peer-to-peer trading business dubbed after her nickname “Bitcoin Babe,” stated that she has been banned by a total of 91 banks and financial institutions throughout her seven-year history in crypto:
“As of yesterday, I have been banned and de-banked from 91 banks and financial institutions. That’s 91-lifetime bans. No reasons given, no case-by-case assessments or discussions engaged and no recourse available.”
At today's Senate hearings on crypto regulation, the session opens with @ausfintech providing testimony on #debanking: CEO says there is no area within fintech suffering more from this than the crypto sector, saying "Australia will be left behind"— chloe white (@ChloeWhiteAus) September 7, 2021
Bitcoin Babe utilizes exchanges such as Local Bitcoins to conduct trades in Australia, and according to her profile on the website, she has conducted more than 40,000 trades since 2014 with a feedback score of 98%.
Despite holding 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:
“I’ve had banks go as far as report me as being like a terrorist on some databases, and that’s what stopped me from being able to get some of these services.”
It’s troubling to hear about the personal impact of de-banking on people trying to set up a small business. The banks have said the driver of de-banking is the lack of a regulatory framework for digital assets. That’s what we must fix and we will hold the banks to that.— Senator Andrew Bragg (@ajamesbragg) September 8, 2021
Singapore-headquartered Nium is licensed in 40 markets across the globe; however, the firm stated that Australia is the only country where it has had issues with financial service providers.
Michael Minassian, Asia-Pacific head of consumer business at Nium, stated the firm feels that there are some “uncompetitive practices” that are being conducted with de-banking, as he questioned the “opaque” reasons that banks have offered when cutting services to the company:
“They’re very vague as to why they are ceasing to provide banking services to you. I’ve had some bankers provide me with verbal reasons as the policy shifts within the bank etc, but essentially industries like remittance become too hard for the banks.”
“It’s costly for them to try and establish frameworks that they can allow banking, so it’s just easier for them to to to cease providing services,” he added.
Mitchell Travers, a co-founder of New South Wales-based crypto investment platform Aus Merchant, stated that with what little reasoning was provided behind de-banking the platform, it was due to “risk avoidance” from banks.
“As far as I’m aware, it was a risk avoidance, risk-off attitude where the reasoning was that we were outside of the scope of services for these banks, and we werent given an opportunity to provide enhanced due diligence procedures,” he said.
Senator Bragg responded by stating, “Okay, I see your registration with AUSTRAC is worthless to a bank, it sounds like.”
The Commonwealth Bank (CBA) provided a submission to the inquiry explaining its practices and stated that it operates “commensurate systems and controls to mitigate and manage” Anti-Money Laundering and terror financing risk.
“In circumstances where a customer’s source of funds and source of wealth is unable to be determined, or their account activity is not in accordance with known business activities, the group takes appropriate steps to mitigate and manage its ML/TF risk,” The CBA said in its submission.