Carruthers makes not guilty plea at BetonSports trial

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David Carruthers, the fired chief executive of BetonSports, appeared in a Missouri court yesterday, shackled and in prison clothes, to plead not guilty to charges that he ran an illegal online gambling operation.

And BetonSports itself failed to send a legal team to fight an injunction that has shut down its lucrative US betting site. The injunction was extended for two weeks.

Mr Carruthers is among 11 people and four companies - including BetonSports - named in a 22-count indictment alleging racketeering, fraud, tax evasion and offences under American laws forbidding the taking of bets over the telephone wires.

Mr Carruthers, 48, was led into court in handcuffs. Lawyers were negotiating a $1bn bail bond that would allow him to be freed, although he was likely to be electronically tagged and prevented from leaving the environs of St Louis, Missouri.

Last week Mr Carruthers was removed as chief executive and from the company board by BetonSports. The company said its insurers would foot Mr Carruthers' legal bill. His arrest, while changing planes in Dallas two weeks ago, sent shares in London-listed online gambling companies plunging. Rivals, though, have argued that the indictment of Mr Carruthers and others linked to BetonSports' maverick founder Gary Kaplan does not presage a wider clampdown by the US authorities against the industry.

Several other figures indicted in the US action also pleaded not guilty in St Louis yesterday. They included Mr Kaplan's siblings, Neil Kaplan and Lori Kaplan-Multz, former BetonSports employee Tim Brown, and four people connected with a marketing firm used by Gary Kaplan's gambling businesses. An arrest warrant has been issued for Mr Kaplan, who lives near the BetonSports HQ in Costa Rica.

A separate hearing extended the restraining order granted to federal authorities to stop BetonSports accepting bets from US gamblers and to force it to return deposits to US customers. It shut down the sites last week.

It has emerged that BetonSports shared an office in Costa Rica until spring last year with a company US prosecutors allege is linked to a New York Mafia family. Safe Deposit Sports was allegedly part of an illegal gambling ring that made millions for the Bonnano mob family.