Investigation and Takedown Believed to Be the Largest International Money Laundering Prosecution in History, Involving Law Enforcement Actions in 17 Countries
Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Mythili Raman, the Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Criminal Division of the U.S. Department of Justice (“DOJ”), Steven G. Hughes, the Special Agent-in-Charge of the New York Office of the U.S. Secret Service, Richard Weber, the Chief of the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation (“IRS-CI”), and James T. Hayes, Jr., the Special Agent-in-Charge of the New York Field Office of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (“ICE”) Homeland Security Investigations (“HSI”), announced today the unsealing of an indictment charging LIBERTY RESERVE, a company that operated one of the world’s most widely used digital currency services, and seven of its principals and employees with money laundering and operating an unlicensed money transmitting business. LIBERTY RESERVE is alleged to have had more than one million users worldwide, including more than 200,000 users in the U.S, who conducted approximately 55 million transactions – virtually all of which were illegal – and laundered more than $6 billion in suspected proceeds of crimes including credit card fraud, identity theft, investment fraud, computer hacking, child pornography, and narcotics trafficking.
Five defendants were arrested on May 24, 2013, including ARTHUR BUDOVSKY, the principal founder of LIBERTY RESERVE, who was arrested in Spain; VLADIMIR KATS, the co-founder of LIBERTY RESERVE, who was arrested in Brooklyn, New York; AZZEDDINE EL AMINE, a manager of LIBERTY RESERVE’s financial accounts, who was arrested in Spain; and MARK MARMILEV and MAXIM CHUKHAREV, who helped design and maintain LIBERTY RESERVE’s technological infrastructure, who were arrested in Brooklyn, New York, and Costa Rica, respectively. Two other defendants, AHMED YASSINE ABDELGHANI (“YASSINE”) and ALLAN ESTEBAN HIDALGO JIMENEZ (“HIDALGO”), are at large in Costa Rica.
In addition to the criminal charges brought in the Indictment, five domain names were seized, namely, the domain name of LIBERTY RESERVE and the domain names of four exchanger websites that were controlled by one or more of the defendants; 45 bank accounts were restrained or seized; and a civil action was filed against 35 exchanger websites (see attached list) seeking the forfeiture of the exchangers’ domain names because the websites were used to facilitate the LIBERTY RESERVE money laundering conspiracy and constitute property involved in money laundering. The four exchangers whose domain names were seized, as well as the 35 exchangers whose domain names are the subjects of the civil forfeiture action, were all exchangers that transacted business with LIBERTY RESERVE and were listed on LIBERTY RESERVE’s website as “pre-approved exchangers.” The investigation and takedown involved law enforcement action in 17 countries, including Costa Rica, the Netherlands, Spain, Morocco, Sweden, Switzerland, Cyprus, Australia, China, Norway, Latvia, Luxembourg, the United Kingdom, Russia, Canada, and the U.S.
In a coordinated action, the U.S. Department of the Treasury and its Financial Crimes Enforcement Network today announced that LIBERTY RESERVE has been named as a financial institution of primary money laundering concern under Section 311 of the USA PATRIOT Act. This action includes a notice to the Federal Register proposing to prohibit covered U.S. financial institutions from opening or maintaining correspondent or payable-through accounts for foreign banks that are being used to process transactions involving LIBERTY RESERVE.