Mr Sims rejected the suggestion that the ACCCs inquiry had failed to hear from the victims, telling the Financial Review it had heard from some debanked companies that claimed their businesses had full traceability to address AML/CTF concerns.
However, he said the banks had given investigators good access to documents and individually provided credible and different explanations about the decisions to cut off companies. He said the ACCC had decided there was currently no need to launch an in-depth investigation.
“We understand the concern here, because in a sense these companies have been excluded from the marketplace, but there does seem to be a justifiable reason,” Mr Sims said.
“Our investigators are well trained and can sniff things pretty quickly, and this had the smell of being a very reasonable explanation … but we will keep watching the sector very closely because we are acutely conscious that with new economy start-ups, we want to make sure that the established players aren’t stopping their progression.”
Mr Sims said it was beholden on bitcoin companies to demonstrate to banks that their systems could be traced and guaranteed against breaching AML/CTF requirements, and if banks still refused to deal with them after that then further investigation could be required.
Industry not informed
Meanwhile Ron Tucker, chairman of industry body The Australian Digital Currency Commerce Association and founder of bitcoin exchange Bit Trade, confirmed that while the ACCC had met with the ADCCA, he was unaware of any direct contact with affected businesses.
He said the ADCCA advocates voluntary compliance and best practice by the industry in relation to AML/CTF processes. Rather than being a risk, he said many leading Australian digital currency businesses operated in accordance with the legislative guidelines applying to regulated businesses and in many cases performed at bank level or better.
Mr Tucker said he hadn’t heard from the ACCC following the conclusion of its investigation, and that the digital currency operators now needed to work with the banking sector to properly work out how the industry should work in the future.
“Our members, and ADCCA as the industry body, continue to engage with key regulators and government agencies and welcomes an ongoing dialogue with financial service providers to help create a robust, financially inclusive and healthy fintech industry in Australia,” he said.