Amaya is one of numerous online gambling enterprises being potentially linked to suspicious companies based offshore in safe tax havens spread across the Caribbean. The so-called Panama Papers can trace at least one business in the region back to Amaya through personal associations.
It was revealed this week that Zhapa Holdings Inc., a British Virgin Islands business, lists Goulissa Baazov as a shareholder. Goulissa is the sister of Amaya CEO David Baazov and brother of Ofer aka Josh Baazov.
According to CalvinAyre.com, Zhapa Holdings was an Internet credit card processor that catered to online gambling networks. Among the websites associated to Zhapa is the notorious Oddsmaker.ag, a platform that once accepted sports wagers from US customers but rarely paid on winnings.
Zhapa also hosted BetonUSA.com on its network server, an online sportsbook that was once owned by Josh Baazov and his longtime business partner Craig Levett.
Josh and Levett’s stock market trading rights were suspended by Quebec’s Autorité des Marchés Financiers (AMF) on March 23. AMF investigators are probing David Baazov and 15 other individuals on what they believe to be a web of insider trading activity related to Amaya’s $4.9 billion purchase of the Oldford Group, then-owners of PokerStars.
Various media outlets are incorrectly directly tethering the Amaya CEO to the Panama Papers, but in reality there doesn’t appear to be an actual mention of his name or the Canadian gaming conglomerate in the database consisting of 11.5 million documents.
While offshore companies are often created to avoid taxes and launder money, there are warranted and legal reasons for entities creating such corporations. It’s certainly suspicious that Baazov’s sister and brother are linked to these offshore accounts, but the fact is they haven’t been proven or even accused of breaking any law.
That isn’t to say skepticism is unwarranted, especially considering the recent events surrounding David’s life.
The embattled CEO is being accused of using privileged information to aid others in making calculated stock trades. Baazov has taken a paid leave from the company as the investigation into his conduct continues.
The Panama Papers are 2.6 terabytes of data obtained from the secretive Panama-based law firm Mossack Fonseca and shows how some of world’s richest leaders and global power players move and store money. An anonymous source attained the files and then shared them with German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung who dispersed the records to international media outlets.
12 national leaders and 143 politicians are named in the report including a $2 billion money trail that leads back to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Mossack Fonseca aids international companies in forming shell companies in the tax-friendly Caribbean, specifically in the British Virgin Islands, Panama, and Bahamas. With lax government oversight, these offshore companies are frequently utilized to conceal business dealings.
“The data provides rare insights into a world that can only exist in the shadows,” Süddeutsche Zeitung said.
To better understand the scope of the leak, the infamous WikiLeaks in 2010 consisted of 1.7 gigabytes of data.
The Panama Papers are 2,600 gigabytes.