An alleged $6 billion money-laundering cyber network that helped hide illegal transactions worldwide has been busted.
The arrests were carried out last week in Brooklyn, N.Y., Spain and Costa Rica, said USA Today, and nabbed alleged principals of Liberty Reserve, a Costa Rica-based company that allegedly had more than 1 million users worldwide, including more than 200,000 in the U.S.
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said the suspects and company were indicted for allegedly facilitating 55 million transactions that concealed the proceeds of credit card fraud, identity theft, computer hacking, child pornography, narcotics trafficking and other crimes, said USA Today.
"As alleged, the only liberty that Liberty Reserve gave many of its users was the freedom to commit crimes — the coin of its realm was anonymity, and it became a popular hub for fraudsters, hackers and traffickers," said Bharara.
The suspects, charged with money laundering and other charges, include alleged Liberty Reserve principal founder Arthur Budovsky, who was arrested in Spain, and co-founder Vladimir Kats, who was arrested in Brooklyn. Three others were arrested in Brooklyn and Costa Rica, and two other suspects remain at large.
Incorporated in Costa Rica in 2006, Liberty Reserve "provided its users with what it described as 'instant, real-time currency for international commerce" that can be used to "send and receive payments from anyone, anywhere on the globe," the indictment charged.
The network, which the indictment alleged was structured and operated "to help criminals conduct illegal transactions" and launder the financial proceeds, became "one of the world's most widely used digital currencies" by billing the transactions as "anonymous and untraceable."
Liberty Reserve clients allegedly opened accounts through the company website. Although they were required to supply basic background information, the company did not require users to validate their identities, said USA Today.