I have my doubts about the closure of Liberty Reserve. It is widely reported to have had 1 million users. I am not yet convinced that a higher percentage of these were criminals, than is true in much of the mainstream banking system. I have been told by an email – which I cannot currently verify – that of the US $6 billion processed through Liberty Reserve, only US$20 million has to date been seized as the proceeds of crime.
It seems to me that a public sickened by the massive charges of bankers for simple intermediary services, will increasingly look for means to exchange value outwith the formal banking sector using modern technology. Services like Western Union are dreadfully overpriced, and make massive profits on home transfers by poor immigrant workers worldwide. It is getting increasingly hard to despatch money as physical cash by a friend. Carrying large quantities of money, even if it is your own, is seen as suspicious.
I was astonished when, during the Norwich by-election, my request to take several thousand pounds worth of cash out of my own bank account to pay various expenses was met with an insistence by the bank that I complete a form saying what it was for. Furious at being denied my own money, I wrote on the form that I needed the money for “Drink and bad women”. That sufficed to meet the stupid regulation.
The US government through aggressive – and in my view illegal – pressure on banks and financial services providers managed to cut off Wikileaks from almost all avenues of sources of international donation funding by individuals. You cannot trust governments to have the power to control all funds transfers. Governments will abuse that power.
Of course proceeds of crime should be seized. I have no problem with that. Stopping the crime in the first place would be better, but failing that you should track the money and seize it. But the way to do that is not to control everybody’s exchanges of value at all times. It is like asking me for proof I am not going to rob a bank every time I walk out of the house. It would make as much sense to ban mattresses, as stolen cash can be hidden under them, or cars, as stolen cash can be transported in them, as to close down internet transfer options because they might be used to transfer crooked cash.
Am I alone in worrying that the mainstream media’s reporting of this closure has involved simply repeating US government press releases, with no attempt at all to analyse what percentage of Liberty Reserve’s funds were actually criminal proceeds, and compare that to a mainstream bank?