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Just days after David Baazov (cover image), CEO, Amaya was charged by the Quebec securities regulator, Autorité des Marchés Financiers (AMF) of insider trading, news has come of several other players involved in the dealings, specifically Josh Baazov (David’s brother), Craig Levett and Feron Antoon, Montreal-based porn baron, among others.
David Baazov, who was charged on five counts had vociferously denied any “wrong doing” and had the company initially supporting his innocence. However, an article by Hugo Joncas in the Le Journal De Montreal states that the AMF chargesheet indicates that the CEO had privileged information, which he gave to his older brother Josh, aka Ofer aka Fredo. Josh in turn gave that information to a mutual friend Levett, who had launched the company that later became Amaya in 2014.
According to Joncas, the AMF report names 13 individuals, who are said to have profited $1.5 million. The report has traced the illicit trading as far back as 2010, recording calls made between Baazov and his brother Josh and then between Josh and Levett. It shows that the players had made multiple equity purchases in Cryptologic, an online gambling technology firm, pre-dating Amaya. It was later found that seven more companies, Amaya, Cryptologic, Chartwell Technology, WMS Industries, Bwin, Intertain Group and the Oldford Group had indulged in similar illegal activities over a five-year period.
Josh would gain information of eminent acquisitions and relay them to Levett, who would along with his wife Nathalie Bensmihan, brother Earl and three other associates, start buying shares. In one case of WMS, Levett and his partners earned over $170K in profits and gave Josh two cheques worth more than $32,100, which were marked as a “gift”.
The AMF report states that in all, the Levett family earned $500K from the inside information, with an additional $800K generated from the Amaya-Rational Group $4.9 billion takeover deal alone.
Another profiteer involved was porn site, Brazzers owner, Feras Antoon, who is believed to have earned $83K from the inside information.
The illicit dealings are believed to be on, even as Baazov announced a private takeover of Amaya, despite the charges. The AMF believes that Josh, Levett and accomplices are planning now to benefit from this private takeover. While, Josh and Levett’s role at Amaya remain murky, with some suggesting that they are official representatives and others refuting that they were just acting as a “third party” to facilitate transactions.
The two have long been involved in nefarious deals and were first partners in the infamous non-paying online sports betting site BetonUSA, which they later sold in 2006 following the passage of the UIGEA bill. They are also said to be involved in the launch of US sportsbook OddsMaker, though Levett denied any claim in the site.
Baazov on the other hand has now come under a minute scanner and it certainly seems that his days as CEO of Amaya are numbered. His dreams of a private takeover seem unlikely, but he insists that it is still on. Speculation is rife that Baazov may be expected to resign in the better interest of the company. Shareholders and other directors have been unanimous in their opinion that while Baazov makes an incredible deal-maker, as an administrator he is just the opposite, with proof being the continuous decline of Amaya shares.
Even if Baazov escapes the AMF rap, the resounding ripples will seriously affect the company, with “suitability” for PokerStars license in US jurisdictions being the first concern. The mess will also give ammunition to inside factions that have long been against many policies floated by Baazov, giving them a clear shot to remove him from the power equation.