MONTREAL—More than three years after the $4.9-billion (U.S.) PokerStars deal turned his company into one of the world’s largest online gambling businesses, David Baazov was in court Monday to face insider trading and market manipulation charges.
The trial that started in Montreal is the largest of its kind ever prosecuted by Autorite des Marches Financiers, the Quebec securities regulator. It’s set to be immediately stalled by a motion from Baazov and five co-accused to dismiss the case, which they say was botched and can’t be processed within a reasonable time. The judge, Salvatore Mascia, asked to hear witnesses before making a decision on the motion, in particular to understand why the prosecution released some evidence to defence by mistake.
Baazov’s Amaya Inc. won the backing of Wall Street investors such as Blackstone Group LP for his 2014 purchase of PokerStars owner Rational Group Ltd., a bold move for a company that had reported about $140 million in revenue the previous year. The AMF probe alleges that the accused used privileged information to trade Amaya shares between December 2013 — when Baazov first met the owners of PokerStars in person — through June 2014, when the transaction was announced.