Amaya Inc. founder David Baazov will face trial this November as lawyers from Quebec's securities regulator prepare to lay out their case in the largest insider trading investigation in Canadian history.
At a hearing Tuesday, Judge Claude Leblond of the Quebec Court set a Nov. 20 start date for arguments following discussions with lawyers for the Autorité des marchés financiers (AMF) and counsel for the accused. An agreement could still be reached to avoid a trial.
A trial would last an estimated 13 weeks, according to lawyers involved in the case. The AMF has said it plans to call some 50 witnesses, including a dozen who do not reside in Canada and who may be allowed to testify via videoconference.
Employees of Canaccord Genuity Securities, Amaya's investment banker, will be among those taking the stand, the AMF has said. An anonymous informant is also expected to be heard.
Mr. Baazov and his co-accused do not have the right to a trial in English because these are penal proceedings under provisions of Quebec's securities act. Judge Leblond has said efforts will be made to assign a bilingual judge to the case and that preparations will be made for a simultaneous translation. Lawyers have said most of the testimony and evidence will be presented in English, while many of the witnesses are unilingual anglophones.
The AMF laid rare insider-trading charges in March, 2016, against Mr. Baazov and has been pursuing its investigation since then. He is accused of aiding with trades while in possession of privileged information, influencing or attempting to influence the market price of Amaya securities and communicating privileged information.
Benjamin Ahdoot, a childhood friend of Mr. Baazov, and Yoel Altman, an adviser to Amaya, have been charged with insider trading and attempting to influence the market price of Amaya securities in the same case. Three companies – Diocles Capital Inc., Sababa Consulting Inc. and 2374879 Ontario Inc. – are also being charged with similar offences.
All three defendants have pleaded not guilty. Riyaz Lalani, a Toronto-based spokesman for the Montreal businessman, could not provide a comment from Mr. Baazov on Tuesday. Sophie Melchers of Norton Rose Fulbright, Mr. Baazov's lawyer, also declined to comment. The defendants face stiff fines as well as prison terms if they are found guilty.
The charges came following a probe launched by the AMF into Montreal-based Amaya's blockbuster acquisition of PokerStars owner Oldford Group Ltd. in 2014. At the time, Mr. Baazov was Amaya's founder and chief executive officer. He has since stepped down as CEO and abandoned plans to take the company private.
In a hearing on motions brought forward by Ms. Melchers this past December, the court heard that the executive allegedly used a front to disguise trades in Amaya stock ahead of its $4.9-billion (U.S.) takeover bid for PokerStars.
A separate non-penal case was also opened against other associates of Mr. Baazov, alleging they profited from trades made with privileged information that originated from him. The AMF says it was a sophisticated system through which kickbacks were paid in exchange for tips on several impending takeover deals.