AMF Releases a Report on Alleged Insider Trading and Kickbacks at Amaya Gaming
The Autorite des marches financiers (AMF), a Montreal-based financial regulator, released a report on the allegations former Amaya CEO David Baazov might have engaged in insider trading. The AMF’s charges led to David Baazov’s resignation from all positions of authority in the software design company he founded.
La Presse has studied the AMF’s report and released their finding. The AMF alleges that David Baazov engaged in a kickback scheme involving insider trading. The scheme is alleged to have involved Baazov’s older brother, Josh “Ofer” Baazov, as well as Josh Baazov’s former business partner, Craig Levett. The AMF believes that the three men made illegal profits on stock trades by using inside knowledge of Amaya’s acquisitions, including the $4.9 billion deal in which Amaya bought PokerStars.
Alleged 6-Year Pattern of Behavior
The insider trading is alleged to have involved kickbacks ranging back for 6 years. The investigation is thought to have revealed that insider trading took place on acquisitions which did not involve Amaya, including Scientific Games’s acquisition of WMS Industires in January 2013.
Accused of Kickbacks on WSM Industries Trading
The acquisition of WSM Industries, which took place on January 31st of 2013, is a key piece of evidence against David Baazov. The AMF found that David and Josh Baazov had a meeting at 9 am on the morning of January 16. Afterwards, Josh Baazov exhanged compromising texts with Craig Levett.
In an email titled “WMS”, Levett told Josh Baazov, “This is what we owe to your brother. I have a check for him tomorrow.”
Josh Baazov and Craig Levett are key figures in the investigation, because they owned the US-facing online sportsbook named BetOnUSA. The two are believed to have owned Oddsmaker.com, also. For his part, Levett founded the company which eventually became Amaya Gaming.
Isam Mansour’s Fateful Email
Isam Mansour is another key figure in the AMF probe. Mr. Mansour is one of the 13 people who had their Toronto Stock Exchange trading privileges suspended when the case first came to light. In a June 25, 2014 email, Isam Mansour sent an email which indicated there was a 10% kickback of profits on an insider trade based on the upcoming PokerStars acquisition. The kickback was specific enough to note it would a 10% payment, after taxes and other costs.
The AMF links Isam Mansour to several members of the Baazov family. Mansour is alleged to have worked for a consulting company named Blackbelt, which Josh Baazov and Craig Levett are known to have worked.
Mansour also was a shareholder in Zapha Holdings. Zapha is a holding company licensed in the British Virgin Islands which has ties to BetonUSA and Oddsmaker, at least according to the AMF. Goulissa Baazov, sister to David and Josh, is also a shareholder in Zapha Holdings.
Domenic Mansour Leaves PokerStars
In possible fallout from the investigation, Domenic Mansour resigned as SVP of Southern European Operations for PokerStars. Domenic Mansour joined Rational Group (owner of PokerStars) in April 2014 to manage FullTilt Poker, months before the Amaya buyout. Before that, Domenic Mansour was CEO of the UK’s Health Lottery.
Eric Hollreiser, a spokesman for PokerStars, said he knew of no connection between the similarly named Isam Mansour and Domenic Mansour. Saying Domenic Mansour left PokerStars last month to find suitable employment elsewhere, Eric Hollreiser told EGR that the two men had “no relationship that I am aware of.”
Given the secrecy the previous owners of PokerStars, the Scheinbergs, maintained involving their negotiations with David Baazov, it is unlikely that the two Mansours have any familial connection.
David Baazov in Court
David Baazov pleaded not guilty to the 23 charges against him in his May 2016 court appearance. In August 2016, David Baazov resigned permanently from Amaya Inc., after leaving his position as CEO in March 2016.
A lawyer for David Baazov told La Presse that his client “is innocent, that he did nothing wrong and that he is eager to present his defense in court.“