Former SU president and philanthropist pleads guilty

By ├ćndrew Rininsland

Crime might not pay for University of Calgary fine arts students pending a Board of Governors decision this fall.

NETeller president, former Students’ Union president and philanthropist John Lefebvre pleaded guilty to conspiracy to transfer funds with the intent to promote illegal gambling in the Federal District Court of Manhattan Tue., Jul. 10. Lefebvre is most well-known on campus for his $1.25 million donation to the cash-strapped Faculty of Fine arts in 2005.

“Ultimately, it’s the decision of the Board of Governors and they will decide what to do and when to do it, if anything,” said U of C vice-president external Roman Cooney. According to Cooney, it is unlikely the Board of Governors will change any of the allocation already given to Lefebvre’s donation, which is being used to provide scholarships to fine arts students. However, Cooney stressed the decision is up to the board and will likely take place in the fall after sentencing.

“There hasn’t been any discussion yet because it only happened last week,” he said. “The sentencing doesn’t take place until the fall, so the board might wait to see what happens.”

Lefebvre faces up to five years in prison. NETeller, the company in which Lefebvre had recently sold his shares, has already agreed to pay $136 million in damages to the U.S. government, according to a Jul. 18 Financial Times article. He is joined by NETeller co-founder Stephen Lawrence, who plead guilty two weeks earlier. Due to the litigation, all NETeller shares have been suspended and the majority of U.S. accounts still await payment.

The case itself is shrouded in controversy. Both Lefebvre and Lawrence are Canadians who broke no Canadian laws and are not American citizens. Furthermore, NETeller itself is based out of the Isle of Man in the United Kingdom. Lefebvre’s arrest comes after the passing of the SAFE Port Act in Oct. 2006, which prohibits the transfer of funds to certain online gambling websites. The island of Antigua has already won a case against the U.S. under World Trade Organization treaty obligations and is filing for $3.4 billion USD in trade sanctions according to a BBC news article.

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