Montreal

Ex-Amaya CEO's defence argues accidentally shared documents can't be unseen

Lawyers for former online gambling mogul David Baazov are in court today arguing that insider trading charges against him should be stayed after Quebec’s securities regulator accidentally shared more than 300,000 confidential documents.

David Baazov seeks stay of proceedings on insider trading charges linked to $4.9B gambling site deal

Former Amaya CEO David Baazov has pleaded not guilty to securities-related charges laid in 2016. (Graham Hughes/Canadian Press)

Lawyers for former online gambling mogul David Baazov were in court Thursday arguing that insider trading charges against him should be stayed after Quebec's securities regulator, the AMF, accidentally shared more than 300,000 documents that were supposed to remain confidential with the defence.

The AMF is now asking the defence to return the documents and pretend it never saw them.

Baazov's lawyer, Sophie Melchers, told Quebec court Judge Salvatore Mascia that demand was "nonsense".

"We cannot unscramble the egg," Melchers argued.

Baazov, the former CEO of Amaya, two other men and three companies are charged with insider trading in connection with Amaya's $4.9 billion US acquisition of PokerStars in 2014.

The deal made Amaya, which was based in Montreal at the time, the world's largest online poker company.

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

Baazov faces five charges, including influencing or attempting to influence the market price of Amaya's securities.

Lawyers for the AMF wrote to defence lawyers earlier this month explaining they included "potentially privileged" documents in their disclosure of evidence to the defence.

Melchers argued asking for the documents back six weeks into the trial violates Baazov and the other defendants' constitutional right to a fair trial.

Men in Black

In her arguments, Melchers made reference to the 1997 Will Smith movie Men in Black.

In that movie, Smith and Tommy Lee Jones play intergalactic police officers who apprehend extraterrestrials secretly living on earth.

Any time they encounter a civilian who has come across an alien, the officers wipe their memory with a device called a "neuralyzer".

Melchers argued it's as if the AMF wants the defence to use a "neuralyzer" like a magic wand to wipe their memories of the privileged documents.

Melchers mocked the AMF's cavalier attitude toward the accidentally disclosed documents.

"Oops, we dropped the ball and gave you 320,000 documents by accident.  No big deal," Melchers said.

Stay would be 'too draconian': AMF

The lawyer for the AMF, Geneviève Régnier, defended the error Thursday afternoon.

Régnier admitted disclosing the documents was a "good faith" error but argued that the defence was exaggerating its importance and relevance to the case.

Régnier noted the privileged documents in question were seized from offices of witnesses and were not all necessarily connected to this case.

She said that previous court decisions have stated that "perfection is rare" in disclosure of evidence and that a stay of proceedings is the "most draconian" corrective measure for such an error in the justice system.

Mascia will hear arguments on a separate motion in the Amaya case Friday. The judge said he will rule on the request to stay charges in the coming week.