The insider trading trial involving former Amaya CEO David Baazov and two other individuals officially began on Monday. The businessman and his co-accused appeared in Québec court yesterday for the first hearing within what has been billed as Canada’s biggest insider-trading case.
It was last spring when Québec’s securities regulator Autorité des marchés financiers (AMF) laid insider trading charges against Mr. Baazov as well as Toronto financier Yoel Altman and Benjamin Ahdoot, a long-time friend of the former Amaya CEO and a Vice President of Government Projects at said company at the time breaches allegedly took place.
Mr. Baazov was accused of aiding trades while possessing privileged information, of communicating the information, and of attempting to influence the price of Amaya shares in the period before the company’s acquisition of Isle of Man-based Rational Group, the owner of PokerStars.
The deal, worth $4.9 billion, was completed in August 2014 and made Amaya the largest online poker company in the world.
Both Mr. Baazov and his co-accused have denied any wrongdoing. However, the charges against them carry fines of up to $5 million and a penalty of up to five years in prison.
According to preliminary timelines, it is believed that a verdict would not be issued before July of next year, which will make the process, together with all events leading up to it, quite a lengthy one. However, Mr. Baazov’s defense asked the court on Monday to stay the proceedings, and if this happens, the businessman and his alleged accomplices might walk out free people.
Highlights from Monday’s Hearing
The stay motion will now be considered by Justice Salvatore Mascia. The greater part of Monday’s hearing was dedicated to the defense and the prosecution presenting their arguments on why the requested stay should be granted or dismissed.
Lawyers for Mr. Baazov and his co-accused argued that they were presented with a large batch of over 16 million documents related to the case back in September. A second batch of documents was given to the defense last Friday, it became known yesterday. Lawyers said that it was really hard for them to prepare adequate defense given the vast amount of papers they had to review.
Dominique Shoofey, one of the lawyers defending the former Amaya executive, said that a large number of documents are yet to be evaluated by them, and that constitutional rights were currently at stake.
If the court delivers a verdict in July 2018, this would mean that the decision was made 28 months after the AMF charges were laid. That timespan exceeds the 18-month presumptive ceiling for provincial courts introduced through a recent ruling of the Supreme Court of Canada.
The ruling, known as the Jordan, has been applied by other courts in different ways. It is yet to be seen how it will apply to Mr. Baazov’s case and whether a stay will be granted, as requested by the defense.