NETeller to forfeit USD 136 mln in deal with U.S.

New York (Reuters) – British payments processor NETeller Plc will forfeit USD 136 million but will not be prosecuted for conspiracy under a deferred prosecution agreement with the U.S. government announced on Wednesday.

The agreement is the latest development in a U.S. crackdown on Internet gambling that began a year ago with the arrest of the then-chief executive of BETonSPORTS, David Carruthers.

Under the deal, approved by U.S. District Judge P. Kevin Castel in Manhattan, NETeller will also pay back USD 94 million owed to customers.

The company pleaded not guilty to a conspiracy charge related to its handling of gambling proceeds.

The charge will be dismissed after two years if the company meets the conditions of its agreement with the U.S. Attorney’s office in Manhattan.

„The company is happy to put this behind us,“ a NETeller lawyer said after the hearing.

NETeller halted operations in the United States in January, abandoning two-thirds of its business after authorities arrested its Canadian founders and charged them with handling billions of dollars in illegal gambling proceeds.

The co-founders, John Lefebvre and Stephen Lawrence, have already pleaded guilty in the case.

The legality of Internet gambling was ambiguous in the United States for many years, but was effectively banned last October when President George W. Bush signed legislation outlawing gaming financial transactions.

In May, BETonSPORTS pleaded guilty to U.S. racketeering charges and agreed to help authorities in cases against founder Gary Kaplan and other co-defendants, including Carruthers.