NEW YORK (Reuters) - Older versions of the website for Liberty Reserve, a company U.S. authorities claim was a money transfer hub for criminal gangs trafficking in drugs and child pornography, expressly said the firm “will not do business with anyone suspected of, or directly involved in money laundering.”
U.S. prosecutors in an indictment unsealed on Tuesday said that is precisely what the Costa Rican-based Liberty Reserve was doing.
The website for Liberty Reserve has now been seized by the United States Global Illicit Financial Team and prominently displays logos for the Department of Justice, the Department of Treasury and the Secret Service.
But older versions of the firm's website, which can be found in the Internet Archive's Wayback machine (archive.org/web/web.php) offer a glimpse into Liberty Reserve's past, before most people had ever heard of it.
The versions say Liberty Reserve has the “right to refuse a transaction at any time should suspicion arise that it may be connected to money laundering or criminal activity.” The policy also said the company would not do business with anyone using funds from “sources by an illegal activity.”
The website provided instructions on how users of Liberty Reserve could go to a number of “exchangers,” which the firm said, “will be happy to buy or sell your LR.”
LR is how Liberty Reserve referred to its own form of digital currency that authorities say was used to enable criminals to launder money from illegal activities like selling drugs and child porn. The digital currency could be exchanged into cash.
The company also boasted of a product called “LibertyGuard”, which it said was a plug-in on Firefox browsers that would ensure users’ transactions were secure.
In connection with the indictment, authorities in Spain, Costa Rica and New York said they had arrested five people on Friday and seized bank accounts and Internet domains associated with the company, Liberty Reserve.
Costa Rican prosecutor José Pablo González said Liberty Reserve and related businesses were used to launder funds from child pornography websites and from drug trafficking.
Over the past decade, digital currency has become more popular. The most widely known is called Bitcoin. Liberty Reserve’s currency was not connected to Bitcoin.
Reporting by Matthew Goldstein; Editing by Leslie Gevirtz