Money laundering suspect Liberty Reserve's tentacles extend to Vietnam

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The Vietnamese police said Thursday they have uncovered illegal transactions related to global digital currency operator Liberty Reserve, which is under investigation in the US for laundering US$6 billion globally.

The Ministry of Public Security police said they began investigations after the Turkish police and the US embassy in Cambodia asked for assistance in uncovering a gang stealing computer data for extortion.

They discovered that Thinh Vu Joint Stock Company, founded by Vu Van Lang, 30, of Hai Phong in 2008, illegally carried out transactions using Liberty Reserve (LR) virtual currency.

According to its license, Thinh Vu operates as a sub-agent for the Hai Phong branch of the Bank for Investment and Development of Vietnam to pay inward remittances to beneficiaries through Western Union.

The police said Lang bought LR from people both in Vietnam and abroad and sold it to foreigners.

Those who buy LR from Lang paid him through Western Union for which his company is an agent.

In June 2011 Western Union terminated its contract with the company, and Hai Phong authorities revoked its license.

But Lang connived with two private companies, which were sub-agents of banks, to continue with his illegal LR transactions.

The police said he carried out more than 59,000 deals worth more than US$24 million and pocketed profits of over VND5 billion ($238,000) between 2008 and 2011.

The police have completed their investigations and said charges would be filed soon.

US authorities Tuesday announced the world's "largest" money laundering probe targeting Liberty Reserve.

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The Costa Rica-based entity, which handles huge amounts of money outside the control of national governments, is charged with running a "$6 billion money laundering scheme and operating an unlicensed money transmitting business," AFP quoted the US Attorney's office in New York as saying.

Prosecutors said Liberty Reserve processed at least 55 million illegal transactions for at least one million users "and facilitated global criminal conduct."

Involving law enforcement agencies in 17 countries, it is "the largest money laundering prosecution in history," the prosecutor's office said.

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