AMF questions why former Amaya CEO never testified to declare innocence

MONTREAL – The lawyer for Quebec’s securities regulator questioned why the former CEO of online gaming giant Amaya never testified before a tribunal hearing to proclaim his innocence in the face of allegations he was the source of insider information.

“Where is David Baazov?” Philippe Levasseur said in final arguments Wednesday. “The only person who could have contradicted this wasn’t here.”

L’Autorite des marches financiers has alleged that Baazov was the main source of details about impending acquisitions that 12 associates, friends and family used to trade shares and reap nearly $1.5 million in profit over five years.

Levasseur said the investigation is not yet complete and urged the tribunal panel not to amend the description of Baazov’s role. The tribunal has ordered that the bank and trading accounts of the named individuals be frozen; they don’t include David Baazov.

He said investigators continue to evaluate documents and haven’t had access to the cellphones or home computers of key players such as Baazov’s brother, Josh, and business partner Craig Levett.

David Baazov also changed his cellphone in 2014, preventing the AMF from examining the device.

None of the main associates have co-operated with authorities.

“Since the beginning David Baazov has maintained his innocence,” his spokesman, Ian Robertson, said Wednesday in an email.

“He did not engage in insider trading or facilitate illegal trades by others. He did not receive any money, gifts or anything for that matter as it relates to the trading in any securities by any of the people named by the AMF,” Robertson said.

AMF lead investigator Xavier Saint-Pierre testified that the agency has circumstantial evidence but no direct proof that privileged information was shared in phone calls preceding several acquisitions.

Levasseur said Wednesday that’s the nature of such cases.

He urged the tribunal not to lose sight of the big picture, as he provided details of the chronology of emails, text messages and phone calls that were placed around the time of planned acquisitions, and the trading activity that followed.

Earlier, Baazov lawyer Sophie Melchers tried to punch holes in the AMF case. Under cross-examination, Saint-Pierre said he never looked at public information, including market rumours and news releases, that could have explained heavy trading activity and share price fluctuations of companies traded by a dozen associates, family and friends.

Melchers will make her closing comments when the hearing resumes Thursday.

Although he’s not one of the 12 at the heart of the tribunal hearing, Baazov faces criminal charges before the Quebec Court, including influencing or attempting to influence the market price of the securities of Amaya and communicating privileged information.

He resigned as CEO last month and cut all ties with the company, though is a major shareholder, and denies the allegations against him.