AMF says Canada iGaming firm Amaya didn’t belong to David Baazov.
For years, David Baazov has been making headlines as a ruthless, but inexorably successful, Canadian businessman. Up until last year, he was the proud CEO of Amaya Gaming (now The Stars Group). That changed when he stepped down from his position in lieu of criminal charges filed by the Quebec securities regulators, Autorité des Marchés Financiers (AMF).
Ten years ago, Baazov took a small company and turned it into a multi-billion dollar success. In 2014, he orchestrated the $4.9 billion purchase of Rational Group, parent company of the world’s largest online poker room, PokerStars. But according to the AMF, there was much more going on in the background.
In early 2016, Baazov was accused of insider trading revolving around that deal. He voluntarily, but temporarily, stepped down from his CEO position to handle that situation, which he confidently claimed to be 100% false.
The AMF, however, believes it has more than enough evidence to prove otherwise. Baazov was officially charged with five counts of securities fraud. Quebec regulators are accusing him of sharing sensitive trading information with a select group of friends and family, who earned millions of dollars from the stock market in related trades.
Baazov officially resigned from his CEO position with the Canada iGaming firm in August of last year.
Two of the men named in that select group of beneficiaries are his brother, Ofer “Josh” Baazov, and long-time business partner, Craig Levett. Now that court proceedings are set to begin in November, they’re names—and David’s—are being accused of much deeper duplicity.
Baazov a Figurehead for Canada iGaming Firm, Amaya?
In 2007, David Baazov was listed as the registered owner of 100% of Amaya Gaming. But according to new court documents filed by the AMF, there was a “secret deal” on the table—or rather, under the table—signed by Baazov, his brother Josh, and Mr. Levett.
The AMF asserts that David only owned 25% of the company. The other 75% actually belonged to his brother and business partner. The AMF says David was little more than an acting figurehead for the company – a front-man for the real primary owners.
Why Lie About Ownership?
If the AMF’s accusations are founded, there’s only one clear reason why they would be so quick to conceal true ownership of Amaya. The company needed to obtain gambling licenses, and his brother isn’t exactly what regulators would consider a model citizen.
Josh’s background is stained by criminal charges relating to telemarketing fraud. A decade before the alleged “secret deal” took place, charges were filed against him by the US Federal Trade Commission. The FTC went after Josh Baazov for coercing American senior citizens to purchase 6-figures worth of merchandise. The lure was a chance to win prizes that didn’t actually exist.
He was ordered by a federal judge in 1997 to pay $770,000 in restitution to the victims of his scam. However, according to reports that surfaced in 2015, he has yet to pay a single dollar of that penalty.
Thus, having Josh’s name on the company letterhead wouldn’t get the Canada iGaming firm very far. It’s unlikely it would qualify for a license to operate in the live or online gambling space. The AMF seems adamant in its assessment of the situation. If so, all three could potentially face a lot more than just insider trading charges.