Ex-Amaya CEO David Baazov’s insider trading trial to proceed


baazov-amaya-trial-proceedDavid Baazov’s insider trading trial will go ahead, after a Quebec judge refused to stay the charges against the former Amaya Gaming CEO.

On Monday, Provincial court Judge Salvatore Mascia rejected motions by Baazov’s attorneys to stay his charges due to the length of time it’s taken for prosecutors to bring his case to trial. The trial, which was supposed to get underway in December, also includes two other defendants, Yoel Altman and Benjamin Ahdoot.

In arguing for the stay, Baazov’s attorneys claimed prosecutors had waited until late September to dump 16m pieces of evidence in their laps, only 2m of which turned out to be specific to Baazov’s charges.

In December, Judge Mascia hinted that he was strongly considering the stay request. On Monday, he said “it was very close at home plate but at the end I accept the argument” of Quebec’s securities watchdog, the Autorité des marches financiers (AMF), that the trial should proceed.

Mascia noted that this case was “particularly complex” and said prosecutors have “a concrete plan to minimize the delays” as the proceedings go forward. The trial, which is expected to call over 50 witnesses, is now expected to get underway in the coming weeks.

In March 2016, the AMF charged Baazov and his co-accused with engaging in a series of stock trades related to Amaya transactions, including the company’s 2014 acquisition of the parent company of online poker giant PokerStars.

Some of these suspect transactions were intended to enrich other individuals connected to the case, while others were intended to artificially boost Amaya’s share price. Baazov has also been accused of acting as a shareholding beard for his older brother Ofer/Josh Baazov, whose US-facing online gambling past wouldn’t have sat well with gaming regulators.

The Globe and Mail recently reported that AMF agents had raided Montreal info-tech company Hypertec last September, reportedly due to suspicions that it served as a front for a secret block of roughly 1.7m Amaya shares and 859k stock warrants allegedly controlled by Ofer Baazov and his longtime business partner Craig Levett.

Documents supporting the AMF’s search warrant request said Hypertec, a longtime Amaya client, held the Baazov/Levett shares under an arrangement made in 2009, and that these shares were used to finance Amaya’s 2011 deals for gaming software firms Chartwell and Cyrptologic.

The AMF claims the duo sold the shares and disguised the proceeds as a loan, reportedly with a degree of sophistication that fooled even Amaya’s longtime investment bankers Canaccord Genuity.

AMF agents reportedly seized a computer, mobile phone and USB keys from Hypertec’s CFO Nathan Meirovici, and also searched Meirovici’s home. Neither the company nor Meirovici has been charged with any offense, and Hypertec executive VP André Lamarre maintained that there was no substance to the AMF’s allegations.

Meanwhile, a Montreal rabbi has sued the AMF for what he claims was an “abusive” and “grossly negligent” search of his home last September. AMF agents raided Rabbi Momi Pinto’s home looking for evidence related to its Baazov prosecution, but the rabbi claims the AMF was actually looking for Yosef Ifergan, from whom Pinto had purchased the house five years earlier.

Pinto and his family were subjected to what they called a “humiliating and invasive” six-hour search, during which agents inspected Pinto’s physical belongings, as well as mobile phone and computer data. The Pintos are seeking C$230k (US$185k) in damages from the AMF and two of its investigators for failing to check whether its property records were up to date.

In June 2016, AMF agents raided Centre Chabad, a Montreal-based Jewish charity, seizing C$87k they suspected of being laundered through the Centre by individuals connected with the Amaya investigation. The money, which was all in $20 bills, was found in the car trunk of Centre director Rabbi Shalom Chriqui.

Baazov resigned as Amaya CEO in August 2016 and sold off most of his shares in the company, which has since rebranded as The Stars Group and shifted its corporate HQ from Montreal to Toronto.