The Liberty Reserve electronic currency was really a front for a $6 billion money-laundering operation online, according to US federal prosecutors in New York.
Preet Bharara, the United States attorney in Manhattan, told the New York Times that Liberty Reserve was one of the best ways for criminals to shift their cash around.
Liberty Reserve traded in virtual currency and provided the kind of anonymous and easily accessible banking infrastructure increasingly sought by criminal networks, he said.
Bharara, the United States attorney in Manhattan, and other law enforcement officials, said that the charges mark the end of the largest online money-laundering case in history.
He claimed that over seven years, Liberty Reserve was responsible for laundering billions of dollars, conducting 55 million transactions that involved millions of customers around the world, including about 200,000 in the United States.
Liberty Reserve created a convenient way for criminals to make financial transactions. There was a complicated system designed to allow people to move sums large and small around the world with virtual anonymity.
Liberty Reserve was at the heart of the indictment of eight New Yorkers accused who nicked $45 million from bank machines in 27 countries.
The outfit was incorporated in Costa Rica in 2006 by Arthur Budovsky he was arrested in Spain on last week. He was among seven people charged in the case; five of them were under arrest, while two remained at large in Costa Rica.
All have been charged with conspiracy to commit money laundering, conspiracy to operate an unlicensed money-transmitting business, and operating an unlicensed money-transmitting business. The money laundering count carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, and the other two charges carry a maximum of five years each.
Bharara insisted that the exchange's clientele was largely made up of criminals, but he invited any legitimate users to contact his office to get their money back.