The Crackdown On Alternative Currencies: Liberty Reserve Shut Down As Founder Arrested

from the money-laundering-or-competition dept

Are governments ramping up their efforts to crack down on alternative currencies that are outside of their control? In the past, we've seen politicians attack Bitcoin as a form of "money laundering." Then, a few weeks ago, ICE went after Mt.Gox, the super popular Bitcoin exchange. Now, the latest is that the founder of the digital currency site Liberty Reserve, which also dealt in Bitcoin, has been arrested and the site has been shut down. It's no secret that Bitcoin can and is used for less than legal purposes, and it does seem like Mt.Gox and Liberty Reserve aren't always perfect about complying with the ins and outs of running businesses that deal in currency. So these moves may be perfectly reasonable and legal. However, there is a larger concern about how these may suggest governments really taking a much harder look at things like Bitcoin, and closely targeting any company that is involved in Bitcoin exchanges with government-backed currencies.


Reader Comments (rss)

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    Ninja (profile), May 28th, 2013 @ 11:47am

    Control. They fear losing it. And current forms of currency allow Govts to control the flow.

    On what grounds were they arrested? And why the services were shut down? Was there any valid accusation that justified immediate shutdown?

    Also, see Megaupload.

    The terrorists are the Governments.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, May 28th, 2013 @ 1:17pm

    Key Take Away

    Alternate currencies are fine so long as there is no exchange for government backed currencies going on. Its the exchange that is what is targeted by the governments.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, May 28th, 2013 @ 1:23pm

      Re: Key Take Away

      By that logic the stock market should be illegal.

       

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      Gwiz (profile), May 28th, 2013 @ 1:37pm

      Re: Key Take Away

      Alternate currencies are fine so long as there is no exchange for government backed currencies going on. Its the exchange that is what is targeted by the governments.


      Why? I thought (probably being naive here) that the US dollar was "legal tender for all debts, public and private". How is exchanging a dollar note for a candy bar different than exchanging a dollar note for Bitcoins?

       

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        Bengie, May 28th, 2013 @ 2:14pm

        Re: Re: Key Take Away

        According to tax law, even if you barter, you must pay income-taxes on the equivalent value of said items or services being exchanged.

        Example: I work on computers and a friend works on cars. I work on his computer and he works on my car. We should both be treating our exchanges of skills as income equal to the going rate of said services.

        If an exchange of goods or services are going on within the borders of the USA, the government wants a piece.

         

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          John Fenderson (profile), May 28th, 2013 @ 4:31pm

          Re: Re: Re: Key Take Away

          Yes, but that's a different thing. If you barter and don't report the income, that's tax evasion. The Bitcoin crackdown is (laughably) about money laundering.

           

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      Anonymous Coward, May 28th, 2013 @ 1:49pm

      Re: Key Take Away

      So, the real key takeaway is that there should has to be a tangible item exchange in between currencies...

      Imagine for example that you used BTC to buy gold, and then exchanged that gold for USD or vice-versa.

      Or, in most cases, people will just start "bartering" for BTC - I sell you my goods/services for BTC, you sell me yours for BTC, we exclude the government entirely.

      When the government's fiat currencies are excluded from the equation, so is the taxation and tracking of what people are buying/selling with their virtual currencies.

      They probably think they can just stop the use of digital currency by eliminating the exchange of it with their own currencies, but in reality, all they'll do is encourage people to use the digital currencies exclusively and abandon the government's watered down currency instead.

       

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    ScytheNoire, May 28th, 2013 @ 1:51pm

    Rome is burning

    The US Government is so corrupt. It's amazing to watch a country fall apart right before your eyes. History will look back at the USA and shows what happens when pure greed and financial corruption are allowed to run rampant. It's the fall of Rome all over again.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, May 28th, 2013 @ 1:55pm

      Re: Rome is burning

      its funny in a way - socialism and communism fall apart after about 50-60 years. Capitalism takes about 200.

       

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        Anonymous Coward, May 28th, 2013 @ 5:17pm

        Re: Re: Rome is burning

        It was an excellent system of governance, designed by men desperately trying to throw off the shackles of tyranny, and preserve their hard-won freedom for their descendents.

        They knew corruption would set in, and made it as hard as possible to game the system. It literally took centuries for wealth to be consolidated enough to give rise to megacorportations with the resources to buy control of enough politicians to take over.

        In my book, the Founding Fathers succeeded, but I suppose all good things must come to an end.
        I wonder what'll happen to the Union? Perhaps it'll simply dissolve, like Russia's.

         

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      Anonymous, May 28th, 2013 @ 7:39pm

      Re: Rome is burning

      Burn, baby, burn. This ain't no disco inferno.

       

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    PRMan, May 28th, 2013 @ 1:56pm

    "Went after Mt. Gox"

    This is technically false. They went after Dwolla, which is a payment scheme for more than only Mt. Gox. It was retained by the founder of Mt. Gox after he sold the site to a Japanese firm. They apparently only seized the bitcoin account because that is where they traced some money laundering to.

    Mt. Gox itself (the Japanese corporation K. K. Tibanne) has been complying with FinCen regulations and other anti-money-laundering legislation. Dwolla had not been.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, May 28th, 2013 @ 2:55pm

      Re:

      And it's a fact of life - alternative currencies that aren't tracked by the government are ripe for money laundering...

      Another example of a useful service with legitimate customers being targetted and removed because 1) some bad guys use it, and 2) the government can't control it.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, May 28th, 2013 @ 3:03pm

    What about the FED?

    Last time I looked US Currency is used for pornography, child porn and illicit drugs...does this mean the Federal Reserve will get seized?!?!

     

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    Anonymous Coward, May 28th, 2013 @ 4:03pm

    I think one reason why the sudden attack on Bitcoin is the fact that it makes some laws, current and future, effectively moot.

    Before SOPA can ever be re-introduced, Bitcoin has to be erdicated, becuase websites whose payments get cut off under SOPA can easily use Bitcoins to get past that. Unless Bitcoin completely gets destroyed, it will make SOPA/PIPA moot, if either, or both bills, are ever re-introduced into Congress.

    Another issue are the travel restrictions on Cuba. Someone could pay for a trip to Cuba to Bitcoins, and not be be subject to OFAC licensing restrictions. Under current law, Cuba trips paid for with Bitcoins are not subject to the travel restrictions. The restrictions do not make the travel itself illegal, but rather spending money. If a trip is paid for with Bitcoins, that is quite different. So I would imagine the hard-line Cuban exile community might have also had some input into this.

     

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    horse with no name, May 28th, 2013 @ 7:08pm

    So what you are saying...

    What you are saying is that you have a problem with the government enforcing the current exchange and transfer laws that are there to stop criminal organizations from moving money around the world easily?

    You are saying that you are against "know your client" laws that apply to money transactions in the US and many other parts of the world?

    You are saying that you support systems that make it easy for criminals to bypass systems created to stop them from being able to launder their ill gotten gains?

    Did I miss anything?

     

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      tqk (profile), May 29th, 2013 @ 8:46pm

      Re: So what you are saying...

      You are saying that you support systems that make it easy for criminals to bypass systems created to stop them ...

      You appear to be suggesting that anything that could be used by criminals to commit a crime is almost by definition deserving of being outlawed.

      Should this include carpenters' tools (hammers), mechanics' tools (screwdrivers), motor vehicles, guns ... (all of which have been used to kill)?

       

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    Anonymous, May 28th, 2013 @ 7:40pm

    Another problem that could be solved by anarchy.

     

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    special-interesting (profile), May 28th, 2013 @ 9:25pm

    Bitcoin is one of the greatest, most brilliant, technical and cultural innovations. (What a statement!) Its a wisely envisioned way to enable personal privacy in conjunction with Internet/digital-commerce and still keep the very private concept of cash alive. Since paper-money/credit/bank/prepaid cards are under attack from every way possible by malicious crooks (notice no mention of the legitimate words like hacker, nerd, or white hat security tester) and counterfeiters is wonderful to see an improvement such as the Bitcoin concept.

    In no way can individual anonymity of normal everyday purchases be underestimated in its function of allowing a free and open democratic society pursue the cultural ways it wants to express itself in. (open ended statement) This shows up immediately in how we contribute to political/activist organizations we support that may be controversial to other parts of society following culture we do not believe in.

    Lets examine, some of this, concept with currently hot topics;

    In the case of Prenda vs. John Doe (various/many) where an typical defendant might have been trying to use the (somewhat/mostly) anonymity of torrents to download controversial content made easily available because of recent technological advances (the Internet). (duh)

    Why did this cultural group use this method of obtaining items? A) It probably was not available from any other source. B) The on-line available source required an address and credit card or PayPal and destroyed any form of anonymity that a cash purchase might provide. C) Other. (the concept of honey-pots/forced-rarity comes to mind)

    Considering the religious and puritanical wars current politics wages their battles in... anonymity is the only way to defend ones personal cultural habits. Lets face the facts that marital infidelity (gimme a break!) is more damaging to a politicians career than fraud, waste, mismanagement of public funds, deception, theft, lying under oath, spying on the public, violating constitutional right, etc, etc, etc. (Citizen awareness is at an all-time low?)

    Would the defendant in the Prenda case use a legitimate source to purchase these items if there was an reasonably anonymous and easy way to obtain them? A 100%, Likely, yes. It would, at least, be guaranteed to increase licensing profits.

    This has wider implications than providing a way to pursue ones happiness in whatever form. How do we protect the anonymity of political contributions?? With US (and other) governments routinely abusing the tax collection agencies (IRS) to enforce audits and non-profit-status on any opposing group (Tea Party, candidates, etc... So much evidence, over so many administrations, please google it yourself) this should not be an argument?

    The accusations of laundering and terrorist support are baseless in respect to the anonymity of an cash donation to whatever group/person/industry/item/whatever/etc anyone wants. Screw the critics. If anyone has evidence of wrongdoing don't please provide the evidence and not just mess up democratic society with some tyrannical scheme.

    “Some” money laundering is no excuse to destroy or confiscate any exchange in the same way the Safe Harbors Act protects Internet Service Providers from random content. One might complain that the US Dollar is used for firecrackers or porn. Its always idiotic to enforce opinion/religious/puritanical values over democratic civilization as a whole. When one culture is allowed to pick on another we have the classic war of one class over another.

    In a good democratic society we know that each individual will not always make a choice that others will agree on. Thats life. What is important is that we understand the diversity of our own population and allow for all the possibilities.


    STUPID NOTE; The terms counterfeiters, hackers, down-loaders, IP, activist, protester have been misused/abused by malicious-special-interest-groups/government-bureaucracy so much that it must be painfully pointed out that only the normal dictionary meanings are used in this opinion here.

    Reactionary,

    Ninja. Control over the habits of average citizens by an industry influenced government is an obvious pitfall that any aware citizenry must try to avoid. Megaupload is a good example where the only thing that may be the media industry fears is the dissemination of creative commons based licensed content not under their control?

    Control is a topic that should send shivers down any democratic citizens spine.

    AC. The Bitcoin concept is in its infancy. Its value is dependent on both some leveling/averaging of world currency (evaluation/devaluation) and scarcity. The scarcity might be solved by increasing the bit level depth of encryption. (both a suggestion and complaint as weak bit level encryption is a vital concern.)

    Key Take Away/Gwiz. Trust is a major factor in any currency. Current Fed money printing policies combined with current administration(s) lack of wise investment of such a windfall does not make for a promising economic future. In matters of trust would anyone feel that a US Fed based Bitcoin implementation a good thing? Would they likely manage it in the same was as the US Dollar?

    Tax law has been a traditionally abused way to force purchasing habits of the average citizen. Tax refunds and even purchase rebates on your tax refunds are normally provided for any industry with the political special interest savvy to incorporate such motivations.

    It is an opinion of mine that any purchases under 20,000$ usd (inflectionally adjusted) should be anonymous. Argue with me.

    Rome is Burning. Democratic ideals are not dead. What is important is average citizen awareness. The current dangers to this is the DMCA and the indiscriminate Take-Down notice that requires no peer review.

    Horse with no name. One must believe in democracy. To not believe in democratic society is to support some other society. What are your suggesting?

     

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      horse with no name, May 29th, 2013 @ 1:18am

      Re:

      Written with the encompassing style of a whackjob. You were only missing a reference to the sky colored helicopters that are following you and ET's brother at your last birthday party to complete the deal.

       

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        kirillian (profile), May 29th, 2013 @ 6:53am

        Re: Re:

        Actually, his comment was rather sane. There was nothing in there suggesting that we should all go find tin-foil hats and put them on. Rather, while he meandered around a bit and referenced concepts without prepping us, he wasn't crazy or ranting really. No need to paint him as crazy with a broad brushstroke here. We can read for ourselves.

         

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        Dirkmaster (profile), May 29th, 2013 @ 8:50am

        Re: Re:

        written like a man who cannot address the issues, so resorts to insults.

         

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        special-interesting (profile), May 29th, 2013 @ 9:44am

        Re: Re:

        If anyone did not like this essay they will surely hate this new one...

        http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20130520/01205823144/authoritarian-governments-still-tryi ng-to-seek-more-control-over-internet.shtml#c332

        Most of my essays try to be self referential conceptually in that an augment is built up with reason and evidence and some conclusion is reached. Many times has the conclusion surprised me and like that a lot.

        It does take some time and usually they end up at the bottom of the posting stack. Oh well.

        It pains me to admit that there could be better examples rather than what comes 'out of mind' in real time and that there should be more linked references for better relevance. But if one takes the time to do all that it gets posted very late and whats the point if nobody reads it?

        Thanks for the response.

         

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    Mr. Applegate, May 29th, 2013 @ 3:16am

    He who controls the money controls the nation.

    Bitcoin is a threat to that control and Governments will stop at nothing to guard and retain that control!

     

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    Anonymous Howard (profile), May 29th, 2013 @ 7:02am

    Funny how they don't get bailed out after a few million (trillion?) fraud like BoA

     

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    Anonymous Coward, May 29th, 2013 @ 7:55am

    They'll be coming for my lindens next!

     

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    Greggore, May 29th, 2013 @ 8:03am

    ???

    So...should we get rid of other currencies in the world because criminals and terrorist might use them? should we outlaw cellphones because bad people might make IED's? Should we outlaw clothes because terrorist might use them to cover themselves up?

    How does the US Gov get off shutting down a currency system? if they want to get rid of fraudulent money laundering and ponzi's, take a look at their own currency system!

     

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    Androgynous Cowherd, May 30th, 2013 @ 3:14pm

    Notes

    It's no secret that Bitcoin can and is used for less than legal purposes,


    So are US Treasury notes.

     

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    yermom, May 31st, 2013 @ 10:58am

    If I could, I'd like to get hired by the FBI. But - hey look you have debt and live in a house with a freaking mortgage. Debt discrimination? I wonder if such a thing even exists

     

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    vivian, Jun 9th, 2013 @ 6:38am

    LIBERTY RESERVE

    if you know you lost your fund in LIBERTY RESERVE shot down, you do need to worry , just email me at tomsvivian@gmail.com with your name and country , i will help you get your funds

     

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