Two former top executives at online gambling operator Bwin.party digital entertainment are facing bribery charges over a failed bid for a Turkish sports betting license.
This week, Austrian media outlet Trend reported that Vienna’s public prosecutor had on Jan. 13 filed charges of corruption, money laundering and breach of trust against eight individuals, including Norbert Teufelberger (pictured, on the right) and Manfred Bodner (on the left), the two former top execs at betting operator Bwin, which merged with rival PartyGaming in 2011 to form Bwin.party.
The brouhaha relates to Bwin’s failed attempts to win a sports betting license in Turkey in 2007. Frustrated by their lack of success via official channels, Bwin hired several lobbyists, who in turn hired other lobbyists in Turkey, including one Ali Ocak, who told Bwin that the license could be obtained if the company provided him with €2.25m.
According to the indictment, Bwin duly transferred the cash – which the company claims was intended as a consulting fee – to a Lichtenstein company called Cort International Establishment. Bwin did subsequently receive a Turkish betting license, only to discover shortly thereafter that the license was a fake. (Let’s have some fun and just assume that the gaming regulator’s name on this license simply read: McLovin.)
Bwin publicly announced the following year that it would take a €2.25m write-down due to the charade. The company simultaneously launched legal proceedings against the folks they believed had taken them for a ride.
Austrian authorities opened their own investigation, and were reportedly told by one of the accused that Bwin’s €2.25m had been used to bribe Turkish officials. It was this claim that led to the Vienna prosecutor’s decision to file his indictment against the Bwin execs.
Bwin issued a statement to eGaming Review insisting that the charges were “without merit” and that Teufelberger and Bodner had filed an appeal to dismiss the case. The duo claimed to be “fully confident” that the courts would take their side “in due course.”
This isn’t the first time that Teufelberger and Bodner have found themselves before the courts. The pair was arrested in Nice in 2006 for illegally offering online gambling services to French punters without a local gaming license. The case dragged on for eight long years before the charges were dismissed in 2014.
Teufelberger was also arrested in Belgium in 2012 over a similar lack of a local license, although no charges were filed after he belatedly agreed to adhere to the country’s regulatory requirements.
Bodner was ousted from the Bwin.party board a few days before the French court dropped those charges, while Teufelberger remained as CEO until GVC Holdings acquired Bwin.party last year. Teufelberger remains a non-executive director of the enlarged GVC.