A business whiz who ‘wanted to be her own boss’ and built a digital currency empire from her bedroom claims 91 banks stopped dealing with her, she was put on a terrorism watchlist, and was ‘bullied’ by Australia’s financial watchdog.
However, the 28-year-old said the massive backlash from the financial industry has significantly impacted her and put her business under threat.
Michaela Juric (pictured) runs Bitcoin Babe and said she has been blacklisted from more than 90 banks because she makes money from digital currency
‘I’ve been very grateful for my seven years in the crypto community and all that I’ve learned, and the people that I’ve met,’ Ms Juric told the Australia as a Technology and Financial Centre Senate inquiry on Wednesday.
‘But at the end of the day, the irreversible damage to my livelihood has been done,’ Ms Juric said.
The inquiry lead by Senator Andrew Bragg is looking at the practice of ‘de-banking’ in which financial institutions allegedly ban a digital currency business.
Ms Juric received bank ban number 91 a day before she was due to speak at the inquiry – leaving her with few options to deal with traditional banks still essential to run her business.
‘There’s been instances where de-banking has caused me to be denied from being able to get utilities or phone and internet services, which I think is very concerning.’ Ms Juric said.
She claimed some of her customers were also de-banked, or told by their banks her Bitcoin Babe business was a scam.
‘I’ve had family members who have been debanked 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,’ Ms Juric said.
The banks claim they do this because there is no regulatory framework safeguarding cryptocurrency transactions – which the inquiry hopes to address.
The transactions of digital currencies, they claim, could be used for money laundering or terrorist financing.
‘I’ve had banks go as far as report me as being like a terrorist on some databases, and that’s what stopped me from being able to get some of these services.’
Ms Juric (pictured) said she had suffered depression in her early 20s and building her company had given her direction and helped her recover
Ms Juric previously told bitcoin.com.au she became interested in digital currencies because she liked the idea of being her own boss and was suffering depression and a lack of direction in her early 20s.
‘When I found this way to work for myself and not have to answer to anyone, I was really attracted me to it.’
‘With bitcoin and crypto, it’s always changing – whether it be the price or the rules or the regulations or the people. It’s evolving. It’s never a dull moment. I think that’s why I love it so much.’
She said building her business had literally ‘saved her life’.
Aus Merchant – another cryptocurrency trading platform – was also represented at the inquiry on Wednesday and said they had been de-banked by four institutions in the last year.
Managing Director Mitchell Travers claimed banks use the policy to shut down competitive businesses.
Senator Andrew Bragg (pictured) is heading up the Senate inquiry into cryptocurrency
Ms Juric agreed and said she registered her business with AUSTRAC, the country’s financial intelligence and anti-money laundering watchdog, but this made no difference to her getting shunned by the banks.
She added even AUSTRAC had threatened her.
‘The way that I was approached was quite aggressive. It originally came about as ‘we want to review your compliance manual, and if we find things wrong with it will shut down your business’, and there were all sorts of threats of legal action,’ she said.
‘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.’
The 28-year-old said Australia’s financial intelligence watchdog AUSTRAC had threatened her despite her company being legitimate
Commonwealth Bank gave a submission to the inquiry in which they said de-banking was part of due diligence.
‘In circumstances where a customer’s source of funds and source of wealth is unable to be determined, or their account activity is not in accordance with known business activities, the group takes appropriate steps to mitigate and manage its ML/TF risk,’ CBA said.
Senator Bragg will deliver the inquiry’s report on October 31.
He said on Wednesday ‘innovation’ from young entrepreneurs shouldn’t be shut down and wants to see more regulation around cryptocurrency to legitimise the industry.