The first bitcoin automatic teller machine in Queensland has been seized as part of an investigation into an alleged drug trafficking network linked to the Bandidos bikie gang.
Police gang squad officers seized the ATM on Friday morning in a joint raid with customs officials at the Roastery cafe in South Brisbane.
The proprietor was arrested and faces charges, along with a former member and associates of the Bandidos Brisbane Centro chapter, over an alleged multimillion-dollar methamphetamine trafficking network.
It is not known if bitcoin transactions – which have been accepted by the cafe as payment since it installed the machine in May – played any role in the alleged trafficking.
Superintendent Mick Niland said detectives were “forensically examining the machine as we speak”.
Bitcoin is a digital currency whose growing popularity worldwide, chiefly for online transactions, contrasts with the mainstream finance sector’s reluctance to embrace them because of their fluctuating market value.
Centro have been under investigation by Queensland’s crime and corruption commission for alleged drug and violence offences since 2012, when one of its members was suspected of murdering Jei “Jack” Lee during a cocaine deal.
A divisive presence in the Brisbane underworld and disparaged by older gang members as “Nike bikies” who don’t even ride bikes, most Centro members resigned last year in the wake of the Newman government’s punitive laws targeting bikie gangs.
Niland said the raids were the culmination of a two-year investigation into the network, which allegedly trafficked ice and methylamphetamine oil, which can easily be converted to ice.
“This crime gang was targeted as they are a significant risk to the Queensland community. To date, over $2.6m of drugs have been seized during this operation,” he said.
The cafe was one of 19 places raided across Brisbane, Ipswich and Logan by the joint taskforce on Friday morning.
Image credit: Adam Armstrong