Online payment processor NETeller stated in a press release published today that substantial funds are being held by American authorities, in connection with money-laundering charges brought last month against Steve Lawrence and John Lefebvre, the company's founders.
The announcement confirms statements made by FBI agent Neil Donovan in a USA Today story, and several sources, including mainstream news outlets Reuters and CNN, have picked up this latest development in the NETeller saga. According to the NETeller statement: "To the best of the [NETeller] Group's knowledge, it believes that the amount of funds seized by the USAO or otherwise restricted by third parties does not exceed US$ 55 million. These funds were largely in the process of being transferred from the Group to its US customers or vice versa."
The monies seized by the FBI remain held pending further negotiations and developments in the case brought against Lawrence and Lefebvre by the United States Attorney's Office [USAO] for the Southern District of New York. NETeller's statement confirmed that NETeller's legal advisors met with USAO representatives on January 19, just as U.S.-based banks began declining NETeller-generated transactions. NETeller itself learned of the court-ordered $55 million seizure sometime after the Jan. 19 meeting.
NETeller payments to U.S. residents will remain frozen for the time being. "As a result of the restrictions placed by third parties, court-ordered seizures, and related legal concerns, the Group is currently unable to make payments to US customers." The release continues by affirming NETeller's continuing attempts to repatriate funds to U.S. residents. NETeller also plans to cooperate with the USAO, and will produce documentation likely showing the deposits by and payments made to U.S. residents. "[T]he Group is in discussions with the USAO to manage an orderly return of funds to US customers. As part of these discussions, it is contemplated that the USAO will engage a forensic accounting firm, at the Group's expense, to assist in this process and to examine the Group's financial position. 'The return of funds to our US customers is a top priority for NETELLER,' said Ron Martin, Group President and CEO."
NETeller also acknowledged in its statement that while no charges have been brought against the company itself at the present time, that possibility still exists. NETeller continues to generate over US $200,000 in net revenue on a daily basis from its non-U.S. customer base, even though the rate of new account signups has dropped by about 65% since NETeller's withdrawal from the U.S. market. NETeller's London-based stock remains frozen, pending further developments in the case.