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Australia proposes stronger money laundering rules, includes bitcoin

SYDNEY, Aug 17 (Reuters) - Australia announced a bill on Thursday to strengthen its money laundering laws, including bringing bitcoin providers under the remit of AUSTRAC, the government's financial intelligence unit.

This would be the first stage of reforms to strengthen the country's Anti-Money Laundering And Counter Terrorism Financing Act, Minister of Justice Michael Keenan said in a press release.

The bill also aims at bolstering AUSTRAC's investigation and enforcement powers, just days after the agency accused the Commonwealth Bank of Australia of "serious and systemic" breaches of money laundering laws.

"The threat of serious financial crime is constantly evolving, as new technologies emerge and criminals seek to nefariously exploit them. These measures ensure there is nowhere for criminals to hide," Keenan said.

"Stopping the movement of money to criminals and terrorists is a vital part of our national security defences and we expect regulated businesses in Australia to comply with our comprehensive regime."

The digital currency exchange sector, which includes bitcoin, will be regulated for the first time, Keenan added. (Reporting by Swati Pandey; Editing by Eric Meijer)