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Bitcoin sparkles as Sotheby’s accepts crypto bids for $15m diamond auction

Sotheby’s “crypto per carat” diamond auction lends shine to Bitcoin’s volatile year, Australian government orders probe into financial crime watchdog, and a Sad end in Spain for fraud-accused computer software pioneer, John McAfee.

Napier AI
June 25, 2021

Sotheby’s diamond auction showcases new facet of cryptocurrencies

Sotheby’s Asia announced on Monday that next month’s auction of a 101.38-carat, pear-shaped diamond will accept payment in Bitcoin or ether, as well as bids offered with traditional money. The rare stone could fetch as much as $15 million (£10.8 million) when it goes under the hammer.

Dubbed ‘The Key 10138’, the stone is one of just ten 100 carat-or-more diamonds ever auctioned, and only the second one to be pear-shaped. Additionally, it is the first time a diamond of this size has been made available to the public for sale using cryptocurrency as payment. Sotheby’s Asia chair, Patti Wong, noted the symbolism of the moment, remarking that “the most ancient and emblematic denominator of value can now, for the first time, be purchased using humanity’s newest universal currency.

The auction of the ironically shaped diamond marks a welcome milestone in a tumultuous year of highs and lows for cryptocurrencies, as regulatory bodies worldwide grapple to balance their potential for both economic advantage and financial crime.

The jewel is set to be sold in Hong Kong on July 9.

Read more on this story on Reuters.

Australian Senate approves inquiry into government agency’s effectiveness in fighting financial crime

The Australian government’s senate approved a motion brought by a Labour party senator, Deborah O’Neill, and a labour MP to probe the effectiveness of the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC). The government’s financial intelligence agency is responsible for the investigation and implementation of the anti-money laundering and counter-financing of terrorism (AML-CFT) act.

AUSTRAC’s recent notable successes saw A$2 billion (£1.1 billion) in fines for AML-CFT breaches issued to two of the country’s largest banks, while Australia’s casino industry is currently in its sights.

Senator O’Neill voiced her concerns about AUSTRAC’s capabilities. In stating that the agency was reactive in their approach, she claimed that these successes rode on the back of self-reported breaches within institutions and international tip-offs.

There were internal warnings that were really being flagged at the board level about failures in compliance ... Banks knew about that for quite a while. The question is when did AUSTRAC know about it?” she said.

In response, an AUSTRAC spokesperson said the agency would cooperate with the inquiry and listed the tools and mechanisms used to combat financial crime. “Most issues identified by AUSTRAC are uncovered by our regulatory capabilities and regulatory activity conducted with the businesses we regulate,” she added.

Read more on this story in the Sydney Morning Herald.

John McAfee’s possible suicide in Spanish prison followed announcement of  extradition to USA on financial crime charges

The accomplished but controversial author of the world’s first anti-virus software was found dead in his Barcelona prison cell on Wednesday. Officials noted the cause of death to be “asphyxiation” and suggested that he committed suicide.

His death came only hours after Spanish authorities announced their decision to support an extradition request from the United States Department of Justice Tax Division to face criminal charges in the USA. The charges included tax evasion and fraud, carrying a penalty of up to 30 years in jail, which was effectively a death sentence for the 75-year-old founder of McAfee Associates.

FBI Assistant Director William F. Sweeney described the fraud charges as a “pump and dump” scheme, in which McAfee leveraged his Twitter status to mislead and profit from his 784000 followers.

McAfee’s arrest and detention in Spain last year was the culmination of several decades of bizarre behaviour and accumulating legal troubles. Over the years,  he has claimed to have been arrested 21 times in 11 different countries, for crimes which included firearm violations, drug trafficking, and even murder.

The final years of the eccentric software entrepreneur were described by tech reporter James Clayton as being “defined by characteristic exuberance and a nihilistic contempt for authority.

Read more on this story on the BBC.

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