Judge hears stay request for ex-Amaya CEO, others

Even before the first witnesses could be heard at a rare insider trading case that involves former Amaya CEO David Baazov and others, lawyers representing the accused attempted Monday to have the charges stayed.

Charges carry penalties of up to 5 years in prison, $5M in fines

David Baazov, former president and chief executive officer of gaming company Amaya Inc. (Christinne Muschi/Reuters)

Even before the first witnesses could be heard at a rare insider trading case that involves former Amaya CEO David Baazov and others, lawyers representing the accused attempted Monday to have the charges stayed.

Baazov, 37, has pleaded not guilty to securities-related charges following an investigation by the Autorité des marchés financiers, Quebec's stock market regulator, into the allegations of insider trading.

He is charged with five counts, including influencing or attempting to influence the market price of Amaya's securities.

Two other people, Yoel Altman and Benjamin Ahdoot, and three companies face 18 additional charges stemming from the regulator's investigation and have also pleaded not guilty.

The charges carry penalties of up to five years in prison and $5 million in fines.

The alleged privileged information involves acquisitions that include $4.9-billion US deal for PokerStars in 2014 that transformed the former Montreal firm into the world's largest online poker company.

Amaya is now known as The Stars Group Inc. and has moved its operations to Toronto.

At the heart of Monday's stay request was the late disclosure of evidence the defence argued has put it at a disadvantage.

Lawyer said case wouldn't be heard in time

Lawyers representing the stock regulator called the defence request a "fishing expedition" that would ultimately fail and described it as an exercise in gathering information for another stay request down the road.

Magdalini Vassilikos argued a stay is not the proper remedy when adjourning the trial for a period of time would be enough for the defence to consult the evidence.

Baazov's lawyer, Sophie Melchers, who argued on behalf of all the accused, noted that 16 million files were released to the defence in mid-September and that the case won't be able to proceed in a timely fashion.

She said considering the amount of time needed to peruse the files, the case wouldn't be heard in the prescribed time limits as spelled out by a Supreme Court ruling known as the Jordan decision.

After hearing both sides, Quebec court Judge Salvatore Mascia agreed to hear from witnesses later Monday.

The documents were divulged quite late in the process, Mascia noted, and he'd said at a previous hearing he wanted more information about it.

"I'm not able to comment on the chances of success of the motion presented by the petitioners but, at face value, I'm not able to say it's frivolous," Mascia said.