David Baazov Trial Set, Prosecutors Say Illegally Traded Amaya Stock

Founder and former CEO of Amaya Gaming, David Baazovis set to stand trial in Quebec on behalf of crimes in what could prove the insider trading scandal in Canadian history.

David Baazov former Amaya CEO

Trial wills stand in a court on charges of securities fraud and insider trading surrounding the 2014 acquisition of PokerStars of his company. (Picture: horizonweekend.ca)

The trial against Baazov and five others is scheduled to start Dec. 11 in Montreal.

According to the most recent court filings, prosecutors contend that Baazov tried to manipulate Amaya’s stock price before the poker site acquisition which would almost take Amaya from bit player to one of the largest publicly traded online gaming companies in the world.

Amaya, now The Stars Group, purchased the parent company of PokerStars and the now defunct Full Tilt Poker in June 2014 for $4.9 billion.

Finance regulators slapped criminal charges against Baazov in March 2016, alleging the CEO committed securities fraud offenses. Baazov took a leave of absence and formally resigned five months later.

Bad Actors

Being forced out of the company he founded was not the point for Baazov.   Since leaving Amaya, many witnesses have come forward to testify against the man dubbed the “King of Online Poker,” and the Autorité des marchés financiers (AMF), an organization responsible for financial regulation in Quebec, appears to have a plethora of signs that could send him to prison.

The prosecution laid out the basics of their case in the recently released “trial publication.” They intend to show a Toronto financier, a childhood friend, and Baazov bought up depressed stocks of Amaya inventory using insider information regarding the pending PokerStars purchase.

Baazov has denied the charges of wrongdoing.

In May, it became known that American federal investigators were considering potentially illegal political contributions made by Baazov in 2014 to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who had been expected to be considering bills to legalize online poker in the state.

Charges in that case were filed against a Baazov associate.

“Insider trading” definition, per Investopedia.com:

Insider trading is the buying or selling of a security by someone who has access to material nonpublic information regarding the security. Insider trading can be illegal or legal based on when the trade is made by the insider. When the material information is nonpublic it is illegal.

Martha Stewart of Online Poker?

The prosecution appears to have found potential evidence against Baazov in an Toronto financier Yoel Altman delivered to the Amaya CEO.

“We simply have to get ahead of these shorters and prop desk men like we have done before,” said a message utilized by AMF investigators.

Additional emails indicate Amaya had moved C$1.4 million (US $1.1 million) to Altman’s investment company, Diocles, cash that was subsequently used to purchase Amaya stock.

The prosecution has even info on the co-defendants. Altman is alleged to have made his Amaya inventory purchases less than two months before a deal to obtain PokerStars was made with its parent company.

The AMF asserts that these inventory purchases were made due to Baazov, Altman, and Baazov’s childhood friend Benjamin Ahdoot having non-public material information that Amaya would soon be acquiring the world’s biggest online poker site, which would possibly result in a massive stock surge for Amaya.

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