ON 16th January two former NETELLER PLC directors, John David Lefebvre, 55, and Stephen Eric Lawrence, 46, both Canadian citizens, and travelling separately, were arrested by US Authorities and have since been charged with laundering billions of dollars in gambling proceeds.
They were both charged with conspiring to transfer funds with the intent to promote illegal gambling, and could face a maximum of 20 years in prison if convicted. The charges against them were contained in two criminal complaints unsealed in U.S. District Court in Manhattan on Monday.
U.S. Attorney Michael Garcia said in a statement; “The men knew when they took their company public that its activities were illegal. Blatant violations of U.S. law are not a mere 'risk' to be disclosed to prospective investors.” He continued “Criminal prosecutions related to online gambling will be pursued even in cases where assets and defendants are positioned outside of the United States.”
NETELLER PLC began processing Internet gambling transactions around July 2000, allowing companies to transfer money from U.S. customers to bank accounts overseas. Prosecutors cited NETELLER's 2005 annual report in saying that Lawrence and Lefebvre enabled the company to provide payment services to more than 80 percent of worldwide gaming merchants.
On their website, NETELLER immediately issued the following press release: -
16th January 2007
STATEMENT REGARDING FORMER DIRECTORS
NETELLER Plc, the leading independent online money transfer business, today issued the following statement regarding the speculation surrounding two of its former directors and founder shareholders, Mr Stephen Lawrence and Mr John Lefebvre.
While travelling separately in the US, Mr Lawrence and Mr Lefebvre, both former directors of the company were detained by US authorities on Monday 15th January 2007.
Other than as shareholders, neither Mr Lawrence nor Mr Lefebvre has any current position with or connection to NETELLER.
The group has not received any communication or correspondence from any US authority regarding this or any related matter.
Pending clarification of the situation the Board has sought immediate temporary suspension of NETELLER’s shares.
Further information will be issued in due course.