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Prosecutors: Baazov bought Amaya stock to boost share price ahead of PokerStars deal

TAGs: Amaya Gaming, David Baazov

amaya-gaming-baazov-share-purchaseQuebec securities regulators have shed more light on their insider trading case against former Amaya Gaming CEO David Baazov.

On Sunday, the Globe & Mail reported that the Autorité des Marchés Financiers (AMF) had accused Baazov, fellow Amaya exec Benjamin Ahdoot and financial advisor Yoel Altman of conspiring to pump up Amaya’s stock ahead of the company’s 2014 purchase of the Rational Group, the parent company of online poker giant PokerStars.

The G&M reported that AMF’s original trial book dated May 15, 2017 indicated that Baazov and his co-accused had expressed concern regarding a one-third slump in Amaya’s share price following a disappointing earnings report in April 2014. In a bid to boost the price, the accused agreed to a major buyback of Amaya shares.

The AMF claims to have emails indicating that Amaya transferred C$1.4m to Diocles, an investment company controlled by Altman, who used the money to buy up Amaya stock while subsequently billing Amaya for ‘consulting services’ in the same amount. Adhoot transferred C$200k of his own money to Diocles, which was similarly reimbursed.

The AMF noted that these share purchases were going on while all three of the accused were aware that Amaya was negotiating the Rational Group acquisition. Altman also made his own Amaya share purchases, with Diocles ultimately purchasing a total of C$2.25m of Amaya stock in April and May 2014, while the PokerStars deal was officially announced in June.

Last week, the G&M reported that Baazov’s attorneys were arguing for his charges to be stayed due to what they claimed was the AMF’s failure to disclose evidence material in a timely manner, which Baazov’s team argue has denied their client the right to a timely trial. The Court of Quebec will consider the motion on December 11.

Baazov resigned as Amaya CEO in August 2016 and has since sold off the bulk of his Amaya holdings. Amaya later rebranded as The Stars Group in an apparent bid to distance itself from its former CEO’s legal entanglements.

In somewhat related news, Monday saw The Stars Group confirm that it had fully divested itself of its legacy non-core gaming investments, following last week’s sale of its stakes in UK online bingo operator Jackpoyjoy and gaming technology provider NYX Gaming Group.

Combined with the sale of its Innova Gaming Group lottery business earlier this year, The Stars Group says it realized total net cash proceeds of US $102m, which it plans to use for “general corporate purposes.”

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