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Monday, June 24, 2024 | Back issues
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Liberty Reserve Founder|Pleads Not Guilty

MANHATTAN (CN) - After losing a 1½-year long extradition battle, Liberty Reserve founder Arthur Budovsky stepped into a U.S. court for the first time on Tuesday to plead not guilty to running what prosecutors call "the bank of choice for the criminal underworld."

Spanish authorities arrested Budovsky, 40, in Madrid in May 2013, for running a Costa Rican-based hub for anonymous online transactions.

Liberty Reserve's untraceability facilitated "a broad range of online criminal activity, including credit card fraud, identity theft, investment fraud, computer hacking, child pornography, and narcotics trafficking," according to his federal indictment.

Wearing a navy prison uniform with an orange undershirt, Budovsky denied the allegations of two sets of indictments at his arraignment, and the parties said that the extensive electronic evidence in the case bodes a long road to trial.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew Goldstein said that investigators need to sift through 26 separate two-terabyte hard drives filled with information in Russian and Spanish, and then provide that information to Budovsky's lawyer Steven Frankel.

From there, Budovsky must decide whether to take the case to trial, or possibly accept a plea like his alleged co-conspirators.

The bank's former chief technology officer Mark Marmilev, information technology manager Maxim Chukharev, co-founder Vladimir Kats and deputy director Azzeddine el Amine all copped to conspiring to run an unlicensed operating business.

Budovsky's defense attorney Steven Frankel pointed out that this charge was lighter than the top count of money laundering conspiracy.

Frankel declined to speculate what path his client may take.

"Let's see what happens," he told reporters at a makeshift press conference after the hearing.

Budovsky's trial has been tentatively scheduled to begin on Sept. 21, 2015.

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