BetonSports axes imprisoned chief

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The Independent Online

BetonSports has fired its chief executive David Carruthers, who is in a US prison cell after being arrested on charges connected with running an illegal online betting operation.

BetonSports said it had been unable to speak to Mr Carruthers other than through lawyers, adding: "Clearly, while he remains in the custody of the US government he is unable to perform his duties." The non-executive chairman Clive Parritt has flown to the company's headquarters in Costa Rica and the company is now being run by its executive management team.

Mr Carruthers, 48, was picked up by the FBI while en route from London to Costa Rica on 16 July. A spokesman said it could take weeks before Mr Carruthers is moved from Fort Worth to St Louis in Missouri for a bail hearing. Mr Carruthers and 10 others, including the company's founder Gary Kaplan, are accused of illegally taking online and telephone bets on football and basketball and failing to pay excise taxes.

BetonSports was at pains to distance itself from Mr Kaplan and others in the indictment yesterday. It said none of its other directors - appointed after the group's flotation in 2004 - was named in the charges. "The board wish to make absolutely clear that none of the founders of the original business has any continuing role within the company. The original founder has a consulting agreement with the company under which his role is non-management-related, which was an absolute requirement of the board for the float and thereafter."

Mr Kaplan is paid $150,000 (£82,000) a year under his consultancy contract, and still owns a 15 per cent stake in the company. The spokesman said Mr Kaplan had done "little or no work" for the group in the past 12 months. The shares were frozen last week and BetonSports was forced to shut down 85 per cent of its business.

The action against BetonSports has plunged the London-listed online gaming sector into chaos as other executives fear the indictments could be the beginning of a wider crackdown.