Operators of bitcoin and other digital currency exchanges in Australia must henceforth register with Austrac, Australia’s anti-monetary laundering agency and keep strict records – or face penalties that can reach as high as seven years jail and up to $2.1 million in fines.

This follows passage of the new Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorism Financing Amendment Bill, which became law after passing through the Senate late last week.

The changes will see digital currencies treated identically with physical money in banks for anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism purposes.

Digital currency operators will have to register with Austrac; identify and verify their customers; keep records of all transactions; report threshold transactions and other suspicious matters; and run anti-money laundering and counter-terror financing programs.

Austrac operates from a headquarters in the Sydney suburb of Chatswood.

In  August the agency charged the Commonwealth Bank with breaching money laundering laws via its cash-deposit ATMs, which Austrac claims saw some $70 million laundered illegally while the bank took no action.

The bitcoin registration measures were introduced in the wake of that case, which is continuing.