Amaya’s former CEO David Baazov may have been receiving financial rewards in return for passing on sensitive company information to his friends, family and traders.
The allegations made by the L’Autorite des marches financiers (AMF) are contained in a 105-page document filed with an independent tribunal overseeing a case against 13 individuals with links to Baazov.
Following a December 2014 raid on Amaya’s HQ in Montreal, the AMF began investigating some of the financial practices at Amaya. Then, a few months later, Baazov was charged with five counts of insider trading.
The charges were linked to possible leaked information ahead of Amaya’s $4.9 billion takeover of PokerStars back in 2014.
Despite protesting his innocence, Baazov took a temporary leave of absence from Amaya in March 2016 before officially leaving the company in August.
With Baazov out of the picture, Amaya is free to continue operating but the man himself faces a lengthy legal battle with the AMF.
According to the AMF’s document, Baazov shared private company information about potential deals and takeovers with certain associates before they became public knowledge.
“Several sophisticated agreements were negotiated even before the infractions were committed to pay kickbacks to the tipsters,” the AMF alleges.
It’s believed that a series of emails and text messages highlighted an inside deal which allowed Baazov, his brother Josh, and three others to earn up to 10 percent of any money traders made from the information they were given.
Although the $4.9 billion takeover of PokerStars was the catalyst that sparked the AMF’s investigation, the regulatory body now believes that the alleged “kickbacks” stretch back to 2010.
If this is the case, Baazov may have been passing on sensitive information to associates prior to Amaya’s deals with Chartwell (a $150 million deal), the Intertain Group (Amaya purchased 1.9 million shares) and more.
In response to the allegations, Baazov’s spokesman Ian Robertson explained that the former CEO’s legal team is fighting the case.
“Mr. Baazov is innocent of any wrongdoing and is eager to present his defense,” Robertson wrote in an email statement to the press.
For the poker industry, Baazov’s current plight is now less of an issue than it once was. Had he remained in place at Amaya then it could have damaged the reputation of PokerStars and Full Tilt (also part of the Rational Group owned by Amaya).
Fortunately, Amaya and Baazov parted ways and Rafi Ashkenazi is now the CEO of the gaming company.
Of course, with Amaya’s name likely to pop up again in the media as the Baazov case develops, there’s a chance it could shine a dim light on the industry.
The impact of any negative press in the coming days regarding the Baazov trial should be lessened now that he has moved on from the company.