Two operators of an Antigua-based Internet gambling site have been indicted on US charges of money-laundering involving some 250 million dollars of wagers, officials announced Wednesday.
The indictment unsealed in Washington this week against the operators of WorldWide Telesports, Inc. charges two companies and two individuals with violation of US money-laundering laws, the Justice Department said in a statement.
“This indictment underscores the Justice Department’s commitment to attacking illegal Internet gambling concerns by using federal anti-money laundering laws,” the agency said in a statement.
Charged in the indictment, filed in April 2005 and unsealed Tuesday, were 65-year-old William Scott, who renounced his US citizenship and had been living in the tiny Caribbean nation of Antigua and Barbuda; and Jessica Davis Dyett, a 35-year-old US citizen alleged to have authority over various bank accounts of the operation.
Both are fugitives, according to the Justice Department, which noted they were indicted on similar charges in 1998. But US officials were able to freeze some seven million dollars in profits held on the island of Guernsey, a semi-autonomous British territory in the English Channel known for its offshore banking.
The indictment also names WWTS, a wagering site, and Soulbury Ltd., alleged to be a “shell” company in the British Virgin Islands.
The defendants operated websites accepting bets for casino games and sporting events, such as the National Football League’s Super Bowl and the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s men’s basketball championship tournament, as well as baseball, hockey and other sporting events, officials said.
The indictment alleges “that by causing funds to be sent from places within the United States to places abroad with the intent to promote Wire and Travel Act violations, Scott and Davis engaged in a money laundering conspiracy,” a Justice Department statement said.
Scott was also charges with failure to report foreign bank accounts to the Internal Revenue Service.
The US government considers any Online Gambling involving US residents a crime, and has vowed to prosecute those involved in the sites.
Antigua meanwhile has alleged that the US ban on Internet gambling consitutes an unfair trade barrier, and won a surprising victory against Washington last year at the World Trade Organization.
US officials argued however that the WTO accepted prohibitions in some US states on cross-border gaming were valid and agreed with Washington’s argument that some federal laws could “protect public morals or maintain public order.”
Antigua had argued in the complaint it launched in March 2003 that US prohibitions were harming its online gaming business, which is aimed at reducing the island’s economic dependence on tourism.
The Caribbean island, with a population of about 68,000, is a centre for offshore Internet gaming operations, attracting large numbers of US residents to its casino-style games and betting services.