(QCOSTARICA) The man regarded as being the biggest money launderer in the world, currently servicing 20 years in a United States prison, is fighting to keep his Costa Rican nationality.
Arthur Budovsky Belanchuk, 42, born in the Ukraine, became a naturalized citizen of Costa Rica on January 20, 2010 after marrying Yesenia de los Ángeles Valerio Vargas.
The marriage, according to Costa Rica authorities, “was one of convenencie” with Budovsky paying ¢200,000 to the woman to sign the marriage contract.
There are many such marriages of conveniences in Costa Rica. There was a time not to long ago when it was easy for a foreigner to enter into a marriage of convenience with a Costa Rican national to obtain residency and/or citizenship in the country. In some cases, notaries already had, for an agreed amount, willing Costa Ricans to enter into matrimony. The majority never met their spouses.
The reasons (and the cost) for marriages of convenience varied, but the end result the same.
In the last several years authorities have cracked down on marriages of convenience: the immigration service being more scrutinizing of residency applications and the Attorney General’s office, such as in the case of Budovsky, taking legal action to annul such marriages.
The reason Budovsky wants to keep his Costa Rica nationality may be, because, if his marriage is annulled, he will not be able to set foot in the country where he still maintains cash and property.
According to public records, Arthur Budovsky first arrived in Costa Rica in February 2008, operating the company Liberty Reserve (founded on May 8, 2006), to launder some US$6 billion dollars through the bitcoins.
In May 2103, police action taken in several countries dismantled the organization. Budovsky was arrested in Spain. He was then extradited to the United States, where, on May 6 was sentenced to 20 years in prison, for money laundering, by the Federal Court of Manhattan. In addition, he was fined US$250 million dollars.
On completion of his sentence and three years probation, he will be probably deported, in this case, to Costa Rica.
The press office of the Ministerio Publico (Attorney General) confirms that, in the case of Liberty Reserve, it has seized US$20 million dollars, cash that is now in the hands of the Instituto Costarricense sobre Drogas (ICD) – Costa Rican Drug Institute.
In the case of Budovsky’s marriage, as is in all cases of bought marriages, the marriage does not exist because the Codigo de Familia (Family Act) stipulates that the parties (to the marriage) must enter the marriage freely and without pressure.
According to prosecutor Marcela Ramirez, in a document sent to the court, she said: “Yessenia Valerio gave her consent to marry in exchange for money. Clearly, she said she was given ¢200,000 colones and accepted without knowing who he (Budovsky) was or what he did for a living.”
However, in a court filing by Valerio, she rejects that the marriage was one of convenience. “A statement to the press says that I said that a lawyer offered me ¢200,000 colones to accepting the marriage, those were not my exact words. I said, amid a group of journalists, my husband gave me ¢200,000 colones a month,” she said.
Carlos Luis Ibarra Garcia, an attorney appointed by Budovsky to represent him in the case, said his client has no interest in annulling the marriage.
“It would be illegal invalidating (the marriage). He wants to stay married,” added the lawyer.
With files from La Nacion