Posts Tagged ‘Trial’

Former Amaya Gaming CEO David Baazov Trial Date Set

 Former Amaya Gaming CEO David Baazov Trial Date Set

In a case that is now dragging on into its second year regarding a transaction from 2014, former Amaya Gaming Chief Executive Officer David Baazov now has a date set for his trial on insider trading charges.

In proceedings held last week in the Quebec Court, Judge Claude Leblond scheduled the start of Baazov’s trial for a November 20 start date. Counting in holidays, the lawyers concluded that the trial will take about 13 weeks as the prosecution plans an extensive case. The attorneys for the Autorité des marchés financiers (AMF), the province of Quebec’s equivalent of the U. S. Securities and Exchange Commission, have called the case against Baazov and two defendants the “largest insider trading investigation in Canadian history” and plan to call around 50 witnesses.

Other than the sheer number of witnesses (including some that potentially could testify via videoconference), there are other problems that are lengthening the potential trial. The trial will be conducted in French (Quebec’s provincial language) because, as explained by the Toronto Globe and Mail, the case is a penal proceeding under Quebec’s securities act. Leblond has stated that an attempt to seat a bilingual judge will be taken and that the case will have all proceedings translated as close to simultaneously as possible. The evidence in the case, strangely enough, will be presented in English.

There is no list of witnesses at hand, but employees from Amaya’s investment bank, Canaccord Genuity Securities, are expected to be called. Additionally, at least one “informant” not named previously in court documents will be called to testify, although there is no information as to whether than informant will testify anonymously or not.

The case dates back to 2014 in what was – and still is – the largest online gaming transaction in the industry’s history. The #1 online poker website in the world, the privately owned PokerStars, was approached by Amaya Gaming and Baazov early in the year about a potential buyout of the family ownership behind PokerStars, the Scheinbergs. Negotiations moved quickly and, by June, the $ 4.9 billion transaction was complete for the online operations and all other pertinent properties.

What the AMF were concerned about was the period prior to the actual completion of the transaction. In unveiling their case a year ago, the AMF alleged that Baazov and two other men, Benjamin Ahdoot and Yoel Altman, utilized the information they had regarding the potential deal to make stock trades “while in possession of privileged information.” Along with the trio, three companies – Diocles Capital, Sababa Consulting and 2374879 Ontario – are also charged with insider trading and attempting to alter the fair market price of Amaya’s stock. Baazov also faces a communication of privileged information charge along with the other two charges.

There seems to be at the minimum smoke where the alleged fire is located. Prior to the sale, Amaya Gaming stock was trading around $ 7.50 per share on the NASDAQ boards but, as the information emerged that the deal was imminent, the share price soared over $ 35, nearly a five-time increase. Even today, the stock for Amaya is still trading around $ 15 ($ 14.50, to be exact).

Baazov has had a tumultuous history since the allegations came out in 2016. Since the charges were brought against him, Baazov has looked to stay in charge at Amaya Gaming before eventually taking a “leave of absence” that became permanent at the end of last year. He has also entertained the notion of buying PokerStars from Amaya Gaming and taking it back into private ownership. In December, that potential deal fell through, even though Baazov and his investors were offering more than what the stock was worth at that time ($ 24 per share, a 30% increase over its board price).

Even with the trial date set, there is still the potential for the AMF and the defendants to strike a deal and avoid any court proceedings. This is a fact that isn’t being ignored by either side as the attorneys are not making any statements to the press regarding the case that could affect any deal discussions. If convicted of the charges they face, Baazov and company would face stiff fines and potentially lengthy jail time.

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Information Regarding Baazov Insider Trading Trial Comes to Light

 Information Regarding Baazov Insider Trading Trial Comes to Light

Former Amaya Gaming Chief Executive Officer David Baazov has been aggressively fighting the charges of insider trading brought against him by the Canadian government earlier this year. In details released by the Toronto Globe and Mail earlier this month, further information regarding that case is coming to light.

Per Globe and Mail reporter Nicolas Van Praet, the attorneys for Baazov are accusing Canadian prosecutors of several missteps. First, Baazov attorney Sophie Melchers has stated that there have been massive dumps of information which are requiring extensive research by her staff. In addition to this, Melchers says the information being provided is insufficient to provide an adequate defense. Melchers points out an accusation from the prosecution that she is looking to have adjudicated for further clarity.

In their briefs, the Autorite des Marches Financiers (AMF), the government oversight agency from the Canadian government, alleges that Baazov used “fronts” to disguise trades that he made (more on this in a bit). Melchers counters that, since the AMF and government prosecutors don’t name these “fronts,” that she cannot properly prepare to defend them. “He’s being accused of trading via a front that’s not identified, with sums owned by an entity that’s not identified, on dates that are not identified,” Ms. Melchers is reported to have said of Mr. Baazov by Van Praet. “All those ingredients, we don’t know them.”

In attempting to clarify the information at hand, Melchers is requesting that the judge in the case direct the prosecution to disclose this mysterious information. In the courts of Canada, it is known as a “prete-nom,” or an actual naming of the situations where Baazov used some sort of alias to shield his identity from knowledge. It would also force the prosecution to not only clarify the names but also the time periods and other deeper details in the case.

Without this information, Melchers says it is impossible to be able to defend Baazov. “Today, nine months after charges were laid, it’s clear that the AMF’s evidence is incomplete,” Van Praet quotes Melchers as informing the court. “We don’t know the scope of what we should still expect.”

Baazov rocked the online poker world when he was able to negotiate the sale of PokerStars, then a privately-owned equity by the Scheinberg Family, to the publicly traded Amaya Gaming. The $ 4.9 billion deal by far was the largest in online gaming history and created one of the largest online gaming corporations in the industry when it took place in 2014. After some investigation, however, Canadian authorities weren’t sure of the legitimacy of some of the other actions surrounding the deal.

As usual after such a massive deal, the AMF began an investigation in 2014 and, in March of this year, decided they had enough evidence to proceed. Baazov and two associates, Benjamin Ahdoot and Yoel Altman, were all charged with different violations of insider trading laws. Baazov was charged with aiding in trades while in possession of privileged information, influencing or attempting to influence the market price of a stock (in this case, Amaya Gaming) and communicating privileged information. Ahdoot, Altman and three other companies – Dioclese Capital Inc., Sababa Consulting Inc. and 2374879 Ontario Inc. – are charged with aiding in trades while in possession of privileged information and influencing or attempting to influence the market price of a stock.

There is base evidence through the rocketing stock price that occurred around the sale point of PokerStars to Amaya Gaming. Prior to the sale, Amaya Gaming stock was trading around $ 7.50 per share on the NASDAQ boards but, as the information emerged that the deal was imminent, the share price soared over $ 35, nearly a five-time increase (currently Amaya Gaming stock is trading at $ 14.15 per share, still an 88% increase over its 2014 price). The AMF is alleging that Baazov and his cohorts, through their knowledge of the sale, bought Amaya stock at the low point and were the beneficiaries when the price hit its peak, the clearest definition of insider trading if there is one.

The trial in penal court in Toronto is continuing now, but it appears there is still quite a bit of posturing that the attorneys are taking. Poker News Daily will continue to monitor the situation.

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