Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and Leslie R. Caldwell, Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, announced that AZZEDDINE EL AMINE pled guilty today in Manhattan federal court to money laundering and operating an unlicensed money transmitting business for his role in running Liberty Reserve, a company that operated one of the world’s most widely used digital currency services and allegedly laundered more than $6 billion in suspected proceeds of crimes. EL AMINE was arrested in Madrid, Spain, in May 2013 and pled guilty today before U.S. District Judge Denise L. Cote.
According to allegations contained in the Indictment filed against Liberty Reserve, EL AMINE, and six other individual defendants, and statements made in related court proceedings:
Liberty Reserve was incorporated in Costa Rica in 2006 and billed itself as the Internet’s “largest payment processor and money transfer system.” Liberty Reserve was created, structured and operated to help users conduct illegal transactions anonymously and launder the proceeds of their crimes, and it emerged as one of the principal money transfer agents used by cybercriminals around the world to distribute, store, and launder the proceeds of their illegal activity. Liberty Reserve was used extensively for illegal purposes, functioning as the bank of choice for the criminal underworld because it provided an infrastructure that enabled cybercriminals around the world to conduct anonymous and untraceable financial transactions.
Before being shut down by the Government in May 2013, Liberty Reserve had more than one million users worldwide, including more than 200,000 users in the United States, who conducted approximately 55 million transactions through its system 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. EL AMINE served as a principal deputy to Liberty Reserve founder Arthur Budovsky and operated a prominent Liberty Reserve “exchanger” service, from which he shared the profits with Budovsky.