Australia hosts the first co-ordinated shutdown of bitcoin accounts by a country's banking system as fears over crime links hit the currency. Paul Chapman reports.
Bitcoin's losing its shine in Australia. Worries about the potential for criminal links have led Australian businesses to stop using it. Now Australia's banks have simultaneously shut 13 of the country's 17 bitcoin exchanges. It's the first co-ordinated shutdown of its kind by a national banking system. James Snodgrass is principal of Forsyth Real Estate in Sydney. His firm was investigated by the federal tax office over a scheme to collect home deposits and fees in bitcoins. The inquiry found no wrongdoing but the negative publicity's led the firm to ditch the digital currency. (SOUNDBITE)(English) JAMES SNODGRASS, PRINCIPAL OF FORSYTH REAL ESTATE, SAYING: "For us, we thought it had run it's course. We also agree with the tax department that we wouldn't do anything. We wanted to sit back and see where bitcoin and dogecoin and all those things were going, and we've been watching it with interest ever since and we're still not back in play." The Grand Metropolitan Hotel in Sydney started accepting bitcoin when a group of digital currency fans chose it as the venue for their regular weekly meetings. Hotel boss Grant Fairweather has no plans to bail out of bitcoin but he says the group's Wednesday night spend worth about $70 U.S. is the only bitcoin trade he gets. (SOUNDBITE)(English) GRANT FAIRWEATHER, OWNER OF THE METROPOLITAN HOTEL, SYDNEY, SAYING: "They tell me about Richard Branson buying into it or things like that, so they tell me that to give me an idea that it's doing well but it doesn't transpose back into here so much, but I would say I'm a smal player in the whole scheme of things." Australia's remaining bitcoin exchanges now have three options: close down, move overseas, or spread their business over several smaller bank accounts to avoid detection.