The 28-year-old chief of female-focused crypto exchange Bitcoin Babe says a de-banking campaign is threatening to put her out of business, reports Sydney Morning Herald.
Bitcoin Babe founder Michaela Juric says 91 banks have blacklisted her since 2015.
Juric told an Australian Senate Committee on Wednesday she’s also experienced “bullying tactics” from local finance watchdog, the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC).
“I’ve been very grateful for my seven years in the crypto community… but at the end of the day, the irreversible damage to my livelihood has been done.”
“I’ve had banks go as far as report me as being like a terrorist on some databases,” she said (via Sydney Morning Herald, our emphasis).
In a bid to secure Australia’s future as hub for tech and finance, the inquiry is considering ways to mend relationships between banks and crypto businesses like Bitcoin Babe.
The Senate Committee inquiry heard evidence from Juric alongside reps from crypto exchange Aus Merchant and Singaporean payment processor Nium.
Bitcoin Babe’s family and friends also de-banked
According to Juric, her most recent de-banking happened on Tuesday.
Juric said her personal bank accounts, as well as those of relatives and Bitcoin Babe customers, were also shut down.
- Juric launched Bitcoin Babe way back in 2015, when BTC was worth around $300.
- After initial success, Juric struggled to maintain a business account with financial institutions.
- Juric noted banks had contacted customers to allege Bitcoin Babe was a scam.
“I’ve had family members who have been de-banked as well, and that’s not because they’ve had anything to do with Bitcoin, it’s just a matter of guilt by association, whether it be the same last name or same address.”
Despite registering with AUSTRAC, Juric said authorities contacted her with “all sorts of legal threats,” including the closure of Bitcoin Babe.
“I think there’s definitely some bullying tactics going on, at least from the small business perspective as opposed to the large ones, I believe,” said Juric, describing her dealings with AUSTRAC.
Crypto exchange says banks want to quash competition
Managing director of crypto exchange Aus Merchants — reportedly de-banked four times in the past year — told the inquiry that banks are looking to mitigate potential future competition.
“With the sort of anti-competitive nature of the banks, it’s somewhat buying them time,” Travers said (via NCA Newswire).
According to Travers, Aus Merchants are considering taking their banking offshore.
In an inquiry submission, the Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA), Australia’s largest bank, voiced concerns about crypto businesses’ ability to comply with anti-money laundering (AML) and counter-terrorism funding laws (CTF).
“This enhanced customer due diligence requires assessment of our business customers to determine the level of risk they pose, to ensure CBA puts in place commensurate systems and controls to mitigate and manage its [AML/CTF] risk,” said the CBA.
For what it’s worth, the inquiry’s chair Senator Andrew Bragg seemed receptive to the plights of Bitcoin Babe and Aus Merchant.
“The reasons given by the banks are opaque and are very, very vague about why they are ceasing their services,” said Bragg in a statement on his website.
“We do not tell banks who to bank in Australia, but it’s not a blank cheque for banks to stifle Australian innovation.”
The Senate Committee will produce a report with recommendations before October 30.
Crypto exchanges have experienced similar cold shoulders from traditional banks elsewhere in the world.
Earlier this year, Protos reported 100 smaller South Korean exchanges faced closure if they’re unable to secure a banking partner and comply with stricter reporting requirements.
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