Optimal forfeits $19 million for no prosecution

Surrenders seized cash in return for non-prosecution deal

Back in 2007 the drive by US federal authorities to disrupt online gambling by attacking financial companies that processed gambling transactions netted close to $19.2 million in seizure orders impacting the Canadian-based Optimal Group Inc., more familiar to online gamblers as 'FirePay'.

The seizures were made on the grounds that Optimal subsidiaries had been involved in allegedly illegal gambling transactions between 2004 and 2006.

The Reuters news agency reported a sequel to the case this week when U.S. prosecutors said Friday that Optimal acknowledged that Internet gambling merchants broke U.S. criminal law by offering gambling in the United States.

"Optimal, operating an electronic wallet called Firepay, processed more than $2 billion worth of illegal gambling transactions for United States customers," a statement by the office of the U.S. Attorney in Manhattan said.

With the acknowledgement, and in return for an assurance of non-prosecution, Optimal confirmed in its own statement that it would forfeit the $19 182 418.82 already seized to the U.S. government.

The amount reflected "disgorgement of property involved in and proceeds received from the payment processing services that were provided by the company's subsidiaries to Internet gambling merchants in relation to U.S. customers of such merchants," the Optimal statement advised.

U.S. prosecutors said Optimal processed transactions originating from customers in the United States until October 13, 2006, when the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act was signed into law. It disposed of most of its payment processing business and is now principally a toy and consumer electronics company.

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