Friday, June 29, 2007

Neteller Founder Steve Lawrence Offers Guilty Plea in U.S. Conspiracy Case

(Canada Cal, on duty for Haley, and wondering if it's such a good idea, today...)

News reports are just breaking that Neteller co-founder Stephen Lawrence has a greed to plead guilty to at least one count of conspiracy in the case brought against him by the U.S. It's one of those "score one for the bad guys" moments, no doubt the result of increased pressure upon Lawrence to make a deal so that the U.S. has something it can point to to buttress its increasingly flimsy arguments in the World Trade Organization dispute.

Lawrence, despite the charge's claims to have illegally laundered many billions in dollars from U.S. citizens, nonetheless pled guilty in exchange for a sentence of a maximum five years, and agreement to be at least "partly responsible" for an estimated $100 in funds the U.S. is trying to recover, and is free to travel throughout the United States, Canada and the Bahamas (!!) until his October sentencing.

In exchange, the U.S. gets a brand new poster boy for its political right wing's anti-gambling cause, buttressed by the following statement, that Lawrence was no doubt coaxed to release as part of his plea agreement: “I came to understand that providing payment services to online gambling Web sites serving customers in the United States was wrong.” Finely crafted, don't you think?

Unknown at this time is whether any similar agreement is in the works with the other Neteller co-founder currently being held on similar charges, John Lefebvre. Also unknown is the effect the plea agreement will have on the approximately $155 million in U.S. customer funds currently frozen offshore in separate negotiations.

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