FTP Boss Arrested in New York
Bitar voluntarily flew in from Ireland, where has spent the last 15 months. His lawyers say that he had spent the time trying to negotiate the best possible resolution for the company, following a crack down by US authorities in April 2011. Since then, online poker players have been trying unsuccessfully to retrieve their funds which are still tied up in the site.
The US government has accused Full Tilt Poker of running a Ponzi scheme, which is part of the reason why the group has been unable to pay back the over $350 million owed to its players. However, Bitar has vehemently denied running any such scheme.
"I know that a lot of people are very angry with me," said Bitar as the FTP boss was arrested in New York. "I understand why. Full Tilt should never have gotten into a position where it could not repay player funds."
Bitar Pleads Not Guilty in Manhattan
Bitar appeared before a Manhattan court on Monday and entered a
Following the clampdown on online poker sites by the US Department of Justice (DOJ) in April 2011 (aka Black Friday), charges were brought against executives of three major sites, namely Full Tilt Poker Poker, Poker Stars and Absolute Poker.
A total of eleven men were charged with money laundering, bank fraud and illegal gambling. Six chose to plead guilty to some of these charges, while five, including Bitar, chose to remain off US soil until such time as they could assess the situation and make the right move.
"For the last 15 months, I have worked hard on possible solutions to get the players repaid," noted Bitar. "Returning today is part of that process. I believe we are near the end of a very long road, and I will continue to do whatever is required to get the players repaid, and I hope that it will happen soon."
Poker Stars Declines to Comment
It is believed that Bitar's return to the US is the final stage of an acquisition deal that is slowly taking shape between Full Tilt Poker and its rival, Poker Stars.
It has been speculated that Poker Stars will pay an exceptionally
large sum of money for FTP's assets, with some of the money going
towards paying out the poker room's players.
It has also been suggested that the DOJ will lighten or even drop the charges against Poker Stars executives if the deal goes through - an important step for Poker Stars if it ever wants to compete in the US online poker market again.