Digital currency exchanger
Digital currency exchangers (DCEs) are businesses that allow customers to trade digital currencies for other assets, such as conventional fiat money, or different digital currencies. They are market makers that typically charge fees or take the bid/ask spreads as transaction commissions for their services.
DCEs may be brick-and-mortar businesses, exchanging traditional payment methods and digital currencies, or strictly online businesses, exchanging electronically transferred money and digital currencies. Most digital currencies operate outside of Western countries, avoiding regulatory oversight and complicating prosecutions, but DCEs often handle Western fiat currencies, sometimes maintaining bank accounts in several countries to facilitate deposits in various national currencies. They may accept credit card payments, wire transfers, postal money orders, or other forms of payment in exchange for digital currencies, and many can convert digital currency balances into anonymous prepaid cards which can be used to withdraw funds from ATMs worldwide.
Some digital currencies are backed by real-world commodities such as gold.
Creators of digital currencies are often independent of the DCEs that trade the currency. In one type of system, digital currency providers, or DCPs, are businesses that keep and administer accounts for their customers, but generally do not issue digital currency to those customers directly. Customers buy or sell digital currency from DCEs, who transfer the digital currency into or out of the customer's DCP account. Some DCEs are subsidiaries of DCP, but many are legally independent businesses. The denomination of funds kept in DCP accounts may be of a real or fictitious currency.
In 2004 three Australian–based digital currency exchange businesses voluntary shut down following an investigation by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC). The ASIC viewed the services offered as legally requiring an Australian Financial Services License, which the companies lacked.
In 2006, US-based digital currency exchange business GoldAge Inc., a New York state business, was shut down by the US Secret Service after operating since 2002. Business operators Arthur Budovsky and Vladimir Kats were indicted "on charges of operating an illegal digital currency exchange and money transmittal business" from their apartments, transmitting more than $30 million to digital currency accounts. Customers provided limited identity documentation, and could transfer funds to anyone worldwide, with fees sometimes exceeding $100,000. Budovsky and Kats were sentenced in 2007 to five years in prison "for engaging in the business of transmitting money without a license, a felony violation of state banking law", ultimately receiving sentences of five years probation.
In April 2007, the US government ordered E-gold administration to lock/block approximately 58 E-Gold accounts owned and used by The Bullion Exchange, AnyGoldNow, IceGold, GitGold, The Denver Gold Exchange, GoldPouch Express, 1MDC (a Digital Gold Currency, based on e-gold) and others, forcing G&SR (owner of OmniPay) to liquidate the seized assets. A few weeks later, E-Gold faced four indictments. Here is the DoJ release  and here is the rebuttal by Douglas Jackson, CEO [dead link](archive.org copy).
In July 2008, Webmoney changed its rules, affecting many exchangers. Since that time it became prohibited to exchange Webmoney to most popular e-currencies like E-gold, Liberty Reserve and others.
Also in July 2008 E-gold's three directors accepted a bargain with the prosecutors and plead guilty to one count of "conspiracy to engage in money laundering" and one count of the "operation of an unlicensed money transmitting business".  E-gold ceased operations in 2009.
In May 2013, digital currency exchanger Liberty Reserve was shut down after the alleged founder, Arthur Budovsky Belanchuk, and four others were arrested in Costa Rica, Spain, and New York "under charges for conspiracy to commit money laundering and conspiracy and operation of an unlicensed money transmitting business." Budovsky, a former U.S. citizen and naturalized Costa Rican, was convicted in connection with the 2006 Gold Age raid. A U.S. indictment said the case "is believed to be the largest international money laundering prosecution in history." More than $40 million in assets were placed under restraint pending forfeiture, and more than 30 Liberty Reserve exchanger domain names were seized. The company was estimated to have laundered $6 billion in criminal proceeds.
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- [dead link]
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