Bitcoin investors in Australia have claimed that major banks including National Australia Bank, ANZ, the Commonwealth Bank of Australia and Westpac Banking Corporation, have started to freeze the bank accounts of cryptocurrency traders without prior notice.
Major Banks Called Out
Earlier this week, Australian cryptocurrency trader Alex Saunder publicly called out all of the major banks in Australia that have had a history of treating cryptocurrency traders unfairly, despite the criticism of the Australian government.
In May, the Australian government released the 2017-18 budget which contained the elimination of double taxation on the trading of bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. Given the controversy around some of the country’s largest banks unfairly closing down the accounts of cryptocurrency traders and businesses, the government also reaffirmed that it will provide a friendlier ecosystem for both cryptocurrency businesses and users.
“The Government will make it easier for new innovative digital currency businesses to operate in Australia. From 1 July 2017, purchases of digital currency will no longer be subject to the GST, allowing digital currencies to be treated just like money for GST purposes,” the budget read.
Still, regardless of the efforts of the Australian government to revive its cryptocurrency and fintech industries that have struggled to see success for many years due to the unfair treatment of businesses, Australian banks are reportedly refusing to provide services to fintech businesses like bitcoin exchanges and brokerages.
CoinSpot, one of the few remaining cryptocurrency exchanges processing Australian dollar (AUD)-to-bitcoin trades, stated that the company has placed a temporary restriction on all forms of AUD deposits, because of the lack of banking services provided by local financial institutions.
“We assure you we are just as unhappy with the situation as you, but unfortunately Australian banks have been so far unwilling to work with the digital currency industry which leads to frequent account closures and strict limits on accounts whilst they remain operational, in effect debanking our industry,” said CoinSpot.
Bitcoin Babe AU, another Australian cryptocurrency trader, revealed two documents sent by ANZ, announcing the closure of the trader’s bank accounts. The two documents provided a vague explanation for the closure of the client’s bank accounts. They read:
This is a letter I received a few weeks ago. Also included was a T&C’s booklet. I’ve highlighted the clause they are referring to.
I have a PTY/LTD company, paying tax, registered with the OAIC and conduct all relevant KYC/AML/CTF checks. pic.twitter.com/DShAZPIjyi
— Bitcoin Babe (@BitcoinBabeAU) December 29, 2017
“In accordance with the Business Transaction Account Terms and Conditions, ANZ gives you notice of its intention to exercise its discretion to close the above accounts effective 30 January 2018.
ANZ may exercise its discretion to close an account due to unsatisfactory conduct for any other reason it considers appropriate.”
Commonwealth Bank Says it Does Not Recommend Cryptocurrencies
A Commonwealth Bank spokesperson also Sydney Morning Herald in an interview that it does not embrace cryptocurrencies because the institution believes they have not been regulated. But, evidently, lack of regulation is not a viable reason to close down the accounts of traders, given that the Australian government has regulated bitcoin as a currency.
“However, we do not currently use or recommend any existing virtual currencies as we do not believe they have yet met a minimum standard of regulation, reliability, and reputation compared to other currencies that we offer to our customers”.
The Australian government eliminated double taxation on bitcoin in June to revive its local cryptocurrency and bitcoin markets. Without proper banking services, the Australian cryptocurrency industry will not be able to compete with other regions like Singapore and Hong Kong with friendly regulations.
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