Legal fumble could derail trial of online gambling mogul David Baazov

Quebec's securities regulator, the AMF, appears to have shared too much information in its court fight against former online gambling mogul David Baazov, and now that legal fumble could scuttle the whole trial.

Quebec's securities regulator accidentally disclosed more than 300,000 documents to defence

Former Amaya CEO David Baazov is facing allegations of insider trading. He's trying to have the charges tossed for a third time. (Christinne Muschi/Reuters)

Quebec's securities regulator, the Autorité des marchés financiers​ (AMF), appears to have shared too much information in its court fight against former online gambling mogul David Baazov, and now that legal fumble could scuttle the whole trial.

Baazov is the former CEO of Montreal-based Amaya.

Baazov and two other men, along with three companies, are facing charges of insider trading connected to Amaya's $4.9 billion US acquisition of PokerStars in 2014.

The deal made Amaya 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.

Now his lawyers are asking for the charges to be stayed, accusing the AMF and its lawyers of an "abusive procedure."

The AMF's transgression?  It mistakenly shared more than 300,000 privileged documents with the defence.  

And now, six weeks into the trial, it wants them back.

Defence alleges 'repeated errors'

On May 15, lawyers for the AMF wrote an email to the defence explaining the problem.

"Following certain verifications, the AMF has noted that some of the divulged elements ... are potentially privileged," the email reads.

"As a result, we ask the judge to make an order so that they are also removed from the disclosures," it continues.

The defence soon filed a motion requesting a stay of charges for all defendants.
The Amaya Gaming Group, which was headquartered in Montreal before its name was changed to The Stars Group Inc. and it moved to Toronto, acquired Pokerstars and Full Tilt Poker for $4.9 billion. (Ryan Remiorz/CP)

"The defendants — who are entering week six of a trial which will require at least 12 more weeks before the parties complete their proof — will no longer have access to more than 320,000 documents which had been disclosed to them," the motion reads.

"Denying access to the defendants of such evidence in the middle of an ongoing trial violates their fundamental constitutional rights," it continues.

"The repeated errors committed by the AMF in matters wholly within its control [lead] to the inevitable conclusion that only a stay of proceedings can put an end to these abusive proceedings," it concludes.

Lawyers for both parties were unavailable to comment.

3rd attempt to toss charges

Lawyers form Baazov and the other defendants, Yoel Altman and Benjamin Ahdoot, have already tried twice to get the judge to grant a stay of proceedings.

In January, Quebec court Judge Salvatore Mascia rejected a defence motion to have the charges tossed due to an unreasonable delay in getting them to trial based on the so-called Jordan ruling.

Then last month, Mascia rejected another request to stay the charges after the defence argued the prosecution was late in disclosing evidence.

The judge will consider this latest request at a hearing next Thursday.


Steve Rukavina is a journalist with CBC Montreal.