On Friday, the Globe and Mail reported that Baazov’s attorneys had filed a motion with the Court of Quebec on October 17 asking for the charges against Baazov to be stayed because the prosecution has been too slow in bringing the case to trial. The Quebec court will hear the defense motion on December 11, the date Baazov’s trial is set to commence.
In March 2016, Quebec securities regulator Autorité des Marchés Financiers (AMF) hit Baazov and two other defendants with 23 criminal charges of insider trading. The charges are centered around suspicious gains in the Toronto-listed Amaya’s share price in the months leading up to Amaya’s $4.9b acquisition of the parent company of online poker giant PokerStars in June 2014.
Baazov’s trial was originally scheduled to take place on November 20, but prosecutors reportedly waited until September 21 to turn over a hard drive containing 16 million documents to the defense.
The documents on this hard drive are all related to Project Bronze, a separate investigation of an alleged kickback scheme involving multiple Baazov associates who were privy to insider info, including Baazov’s brother Josh/Ofer Baazov.
Baazov’s attorneys claim that their technology consultants told them it would take up to five weeks to organize the data on the hard drive, leaving Baazov’s legal team with little time to analyze the files before the trial.
Baazov’s lawyer Sophie Melchers criticized the AMF’s “piecemeal, disorganized and tardy disclosure of the evidence,” while saying the case “was instituted precipitously, before the investigation was sufficiently advanced and without a significant amount of relevant evidence being gathered, much less analyzed.”
Melchers claims the AMF rushed to issue its charges after Baazov announced plans in February 2016 to take Amaya private. Baazov, who stepped down as CEO in August 2016, continued his efforts to buy Amaya but eventually gave up after some farcical gaffes led Amaya’s lenders to insert an anti-Baazov poison pill into their loan agreements.
Further complicating matters is a Supreme Court of Canada ruling that was issued in July 2016 regarding Canadian citizens’ right to timely justice. The so-called Jordan ruling puts an 18-month deadline between the filing of charges and trial proceedings in a provincial court. Over 200 criminal cases have been dismissed since the Jordan ruling was issued.
Assuming Baazov’s trial gets underway on December 11, a verdict may not be rendered until the summer. Meanwhile, Baazov’s attorneys claim that they’ll need six months to examine the Project Bronze data, while insisting that the delays to date haven’t been their fault, but are the direct result of “the AMF’s actions and sloppiness.”
Details regarding the evidence the AMF claims to have on Baazov have steadily leaked since the charges were filed. The biggest bombshell came in September, when court filings indicated the AMF had evidence that Baazov was in fact a shareholding beard for his brother Josh/Ofer, who the AMF is convinced was Amaya’s actual owner/operator.
Rumors of the elder Baazov’s true role in Amaya began circulating shortly after the AMF filed its charges against David. Josh/Ofer and his business partner Craig Levett had a history with US-facing online sports betting operations, and it’s been speculated that this history was the reason for putting the fresh-faced David up front so Amaya could become a publicly traded company.
This summer, following the Amaya investors’ anti-Baazov takeover ultimatum, Baazov sold the bulk of his (or Josh/Ofer’s) considerable holdings in Amaya. Around the same time, Amaya relocated from Montreal to Toronto and rebranded as The Stars Group.