The two founders of online payments company, Stephen Lawrence and John Lefebvre, were last night charged with conspiracy in connection with what’s being described as “money laundering”, linked to internet gambling.

A FBI operation had discovered that Neteller was being used by Americans to place bets on sporting events via foreign-based internet gambling companies.

The pair seem to have fallen foul of the recent US anti-gambling legislation which bans banks and credit card companies from processing payments for bets placed over the internet. The legislation was sneaked in via an unrelated port security bill.

After the bill was approved by Dubya back in October, Neteller continued to do business in the US, as it was assumed to be safe as it was not directly involved in gambling.

Shares in the company, which does 90% of its business with US customers, have now been suspended.

This move indicates how far US authorities are prepared to take their crackdown on online gambling, and leaves gambling companies, such as, in the lurch, as they had partly relied on Neteller to process their payments.

US authorities seem determined to drive the internet gambling market underground, something which was highlighted by Sportingbet as it withdrew its operations from the US in October, at a cost of around £200 million.