A man accused of creating an online, underworld bank that helped launder $6-billion for drug dealers, child pornographers, identity thieves and other criminals was facing his first court appearance in Manhattan.
Arthur Budovsky, 40, the Costa Rican founder of currency transfer and payment processing company Liberty Reserve, was scheduled to appear in federal court in Manhattan on Tuesday afternoon. He was extradited from Spain to the U.S. on Friday.
Once an American, Budovsky renounced his citizenship after setting up the company in Costa Rica, where all online businesses are legal and there aren't laws regulating them.
Budovsky was arrested in Spain on May 23 and held to face a Manhattan indictment against him and others.
U.S. officials accuse Budovsky of using Liberty Reserve as a kind of underworld bank that handled about $6-billion worth of illicit transactions for 1 million users, including 200,000 in the U.S.
Budovsky has said he created a secure platform for online financial transactions, and Liberty Reserve co-operated with investigators. According to court documents, Budovsky moved his business to Costa Rica after he was convicted on state charges related to an unlicensed money transmitting business.
When he announced the money laundering charges in May 2013, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said Liberty Reserve "became the bank of choice for the criminal underworld."
He said the case might represent the largest international money laundering case ever brought by the United States.
During the Liberty Reserve investigation, authorities raided 14 locations in Panama, Switzerland, the U.S., Sweden and Costa Rica. In Costa Rica, investigators recovered five luxury cars, including three Rolls-Royces. Authorities also seized Liberty's computer servers in Costa Rica and Switzerland.