Page last updated at 05:09 GMT, Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Online gambling boss jailed in US

Costa Rica (file  image)
One of BetOnSports' offshore bases was in Costa Rica

A US court has jailed the founder of an online gambling firm for more than four years and ordered him to forfeit more than $43m (£26m) in illicit earnings.

Gary Kaplan, 50, had admitted various charges of fraud and racketeering related to his company, BetOnSports.

The London-based company encouraged American gamblers to place bets online, an illegal practice in the US.

Prosecutors say that Gary Kaplan still has millions of dollars in Swiss bank accounts.

US authorities have been investigating offshore sports gambling since 1997, and BetOnSports since 2001.

In August, Kaplan admitted setting up offshore businesses in Antigua, Costa Rica and the Caribbean island of Aruba, to provide gambling for US residents through the internet and toll-free telephone numbers.

Kaplan's lawyers had asked for leniency, arguing that their client wanted to set up charitable projects to help the community.

But US District Judge Carol Jackson, in St Louis, Missouri, said Kaplan "continued to disrespect" the law and broke laws he didn't agree with.

"Mr Kaplan made an educated decision, a gamble if you will. Now, here's the payoff," she added.

She said Kaplan would not be allowed to launch or run a business without the permission of the probation office.

Kaplan founded his offshore betting company in 1995.

By 2004, BetOnSports' main base in Costa Rica employed 1,700 people and had nearly one million registered customers, the St Louis Business Journal reported.

In that year, Kaplan sold BetOnSports shares on the London Stock Exchange which netted him more than $100m (£61m), according to prosecutors.

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