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August, 2019

Australian police raid Sydney home of reported bitcoin creator

The property is registered under the Australian electoral role to Craig Steven Wright, whom Wired outed as the likely real identity of Satoshi Nakamoto, the pseudonymous figure that first released bitcoin’s code in 2009.

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More than a dozen federal police officers entered the house, on Sydney’s north shore, on Wednesday after locksmiths broke open the door. When asked what they were doing, one officer told a Reuters reporter that they were “clearing the house”.

The Australian Federal Police said in a statement that the officers’ “presence at Mr. Wright’s property is not associated with the media reporting overnight about bitcoins”.

The AFP referred all inquiries about the raid to the Australian Tax Office, which did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The police raid in Australia came hours after Wired magazine and technology website Gizmodo published articles saying that their investigations showed Wright, who they said was an Australian academic, was probably the secretive bitcoin creator.

Their investigations were based on leaked emails, documents and web archives, including what was said to be a transcript of a meeting between Wright and Australian tax officials.

The identity of Satoshi Nakamoto has long been a mystery journalists and bitcoin enthusiasts have tried to unravel.

He, she or a group of people is the author of the paper, protocol and software that gave rise to the cryptocurrency. The New York Times, Newsweek and other publications have guessed at Nakamoto’s real identity, but none has proved conclusive.

Uncovering the identity would be significant, not just to solving a long-standing riddle, but for the future of the currency.

And as an early miner of bitcoins, Nakamoto is also sitting on about 1 million bitcoins, worth more than $400 million at present exchange rates, according to bitcoin expert Sergio Demian Lerner.

Finnigan has conviction recorded in SA

Disgraced former South Australian MP Bernard Finnigan, now a “frightened and socially isolated man”, has had a conviction recorded but has escaped an immediate jail term for a child porn offence.

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District Court Judge Steven Millsteed recorded the conviction on Wednesday, rejecting defence submissions not to do so.

He also imposed a 15-month jail term but suspended the sentence, instead placing Finnigan on a three-year good behaviour bond after finding him guilty last month on one count of accessing child pornography.

The judge said Finnigan’s offending was not an isolated or impulsive act and warranted public condemnation.

However, he said some people had stooped to criminal behaviour in venting their anger with the former Labor MP and state government minister subject to death threats and having his house vandalised.

“You have become a frightened and socially isolated man,” Judge Millsteed said.

On Christmas Eve 2010, Finnigan used a number of search terms associated with child pornography to access a serious of internet pages.

He viewed some or all of the content with many of images of girls who appeared to be in their early teens. Some appeared to be aged under 12.

Judge Millsteed said Finnigan’s offending was at the lower end of the scale but remained a serious breach of the law.

Child pornography “encouraged the vile degradation and sexual exploitation of children”, he said.

The judge said Finnigan had also admitted to an addiction with adult pornography and had shown no remorse or contrition for his offending.

And because the court had not been provided with any psychological of psychiatric assessments, it was impossible to make an assessment of the risk of the 42-year-old offending again.

Before his arrest Finnigan had worked as a senior union official and entered parliament’s upper house in 2006, filling a casual vacancy.

He was elevated to Labor government ministry in 2011 in the industrial relations portfolio but resigned less than two months later after being arrested.

He was expelled from the Labor Party soon after but continued to sit in parliament as an independent.

Finnigan quit the parliament two days after the guilty verdict was handed down and Judge Millsteed said his future employment prospects were bleak.

As a convicted offender his name will also be included on the child sex offender’s register.

Finnigan offered no comment outside court.

An earlier statement said he was considering an appeal but there has been no word on whether one will proceed.

Former friend and Labor factional ally, Health Minister Jack Snelling, declined to offer an opinion on whether or not Finnigan should have gone to jail.

Mr Snelling said sentencing was “entirely a matter for the courts”.

The minister said the question of whether or not Finnigan should be forced to pay back some of the wages he received as an MP while the case proceeded through the courts was not a matter he had given much thought to.

“I don’t know how practical or possible that would be,” he said.

Hodge tells AFL Lions: stick together

A casual conversation with three-time Hawthorn premiership captain Luke Hodge during the International Rules tour has left Brisbane skipper Tom Rockliff convinced most of their next AFL premiership team is already together.

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All there is left to do, Rockliff says, is “sell the message” to the squad and work hard for long enough to make it happen.

“We were just talking about where Hawthorn were at, where Brisbane were at, sitting on the bus one night,” Rockliff said.

“(Hodge) said it’s important we keep our group together. We’ve got to sell that message, that if we stay together we can build something special up here.

“I’ve played for seven, eight years now and I’ve never played a finals game and that stings most out of anything.

“I’d hand back my All Australian, my B and Fs (best and fairest awards) to taste that finals footy and play footy in September.”

It’s a familiar pre-season refrain from the luckless Lions, who have been in what feels like a perpetual cycle of mediocrity: frustrated by a lack of success, top players agitate to leave, the club is forced to rebuild, rinse and repeat.

But this is the season Rockliff says Brisbane will break free and get it right.

James Aish, Jack Redden and Matthew Leuenberger are gone, but highly-rated academy products Eric Hipwood and Ben Keays are in, as is No.2 draft pick Josh Schache, the heir apparent to Jonathan Brown’s throne and whose late father used to play for the Bears.

Pearce Hanley, Stefan Martin and Mitch Robinson are among those to have pledged their future to the club.

All want to be Lions for life.

“Especially when blokes want to leave the footy club as well, it gets microscoped now because of a few years ago when we had those retention issues,” Rockliff said.

“You’re probably going to have one or two slip through the cracks, but it’s the ones that re-sign – I think we’ve had 25, 26 recommit over the last two, three years to the footy club.”

Rockliff said it was hard to predict what a pass mark for 2016 would be, other than simply continued improvement.

Pressure to post wins is mounting, as the Lions exist in one of the country’s toughest sporting markets and one that tends to only jump on the AFL bandwagon when they’re winning.

“We’ve got younger but that’s not an excuse either, we’ve got to hold each other accountable a lot more,” Rockliff said.

“As you’ve seen last year a lot of people would have written Western Bulldogs off but they ended up finishing sixth and playing finals footy.”

Investor home loan appetite plunges

The steam is clearly coming out of the housing market, thanks to a sharp decline in the level of investor lending.

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Loans approved for investment housing were down 6.1 per cent in October, based on their value, while approvals for owner-occupied housing rose 0.4 per cent.

The total number of home loans approved in October fell by a better-than-expected 0.5 per cent, while the value of total housing finance was down two per cent in the month.

Macquarie Group head of Australian economics James McIntyre said the value of loans that’s been approved to investors is now the weakest since June 2014.

“There’s been a really big swing in investor participation in the market, particularly since it peaked in April this year,” he said.

“In just three months it’s down close to 15 per cent.”

Commonwealth Bank of Australia chief economist Michael Blythe said the tighter regulations the Reserve Bank and the lending watchdog have been pursuing during the past 12 months are working.

In late 2014, the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority tightened rules for investor loans with the aim of cracking down on risky loans.

“There’s the lift in lending rates to investors of course, and you’re also seeing some signs of a natural slowdown coming through as well,” Mr Blythe said.

However, RBC Capital Markets fixed income and currency strategist Michael Turner has warned that housing finance and credit data have been prone to large revisions in recent months.

“The new price incentive for mortgage holders to classify loans as owner occupier, not investor, are muddying the water,” he said.

Mr McIntyre said current auction clearance rates and easing house price growth indicates the slowing momentum is continuing into the end of the year.

“We’re (also) yet to see what impact there may have been from the additional rate hikes that were passed through in November,” he said.

“So there’s likely to be some further weakness on the investor front.”

Mr McIntyre said a combination of weaker population growth and a mammoth supply pipeline means the housing market is likely to undergo further cooling through the course of 2016 and not bottom out until 2017.

Hiku on the move to foot of the mountains

Manly are expected to announce the signing of Dylan Walker in the coming days after releasing Peta Hiku to Penrith.

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New Zealand international Hiku signed a three-year deal, filling the void left at the foot of the mountains by the departure of Jamal Idris.

The 23-year-old was granted a release from the final two years of his Sea Eagles contract to take up a deal reportedly worth more than $1 million.

Hiku had attracted interest from Parramatta and St George Illawarra but was lured to Penrith because of their willingness to offer him a three-year deal.

He is a strong addition to the Panthers backline also featuring Matt Moylan, Dean Whare, Josh Mansour and Dallin Watene-Zelezniak with general manager Phil Gould saying the club was fortunate to snare him at such a late stage in the year.

“He will perfectly complement the emerging young players we have here at Panthers,” Gould said.

“The fact that Peta, at a young age, has forced his way into that tremendous Manly backline and has performed so well on the international stage for the Kiwis is indicative of his tremendous ability.

“At 23 years of age, he obviously has the best of his career in front of him and we are excited he is going to be a Panther for the next three years.”

Despite having a strong 2015, Hiku was told he was unwanted under new coach Manly coach Trent Barrett, who has overhauled the club’s playing roster, bringing in Nate Myles, Martin Taupau, Lewis Brown, Darcy Lussick and Api Koroisau.

Hiku is a versatile addition to the Panthers backline having played at centre and wing for the Sea Eagles this year and at five-eighth for the Kiwis on their end-of-season tour of England.

“Peta has been a consistent performer at NRL level for the Sea Eagles over a number of seasons and has also represented his country with distinction,” Manly chief executive Joe Kelly said.

“He is a wonderful young man and has a very bright NRL career ahead of him.”

The NRL off-season musical chairs is expected to continue in the coming days with Walker, who was granted a release by South Sydney following the prescription drugs scandal, expected to announce his shift to Manly.

Fellow three-quarters James Roberts and Tim Lafai are still on the open market.

Roberts knocked back a contract extension from the Gold Coast – in the wake of the contract forgery saga – and is being targeted by Brisbane and former club South Sydney.

Lafai departed Canterbury to make way for Will Hopoate and has been linked with Gold Coast, St George Illawarra and Warriors.