THE BAAZOV CASE ENDS WITH A WHIMPER

 In Non classifié(e)

By Sébastien C. Caron, Marie-Noël Rochon and Philippe Ross

 

On March 23rd, 2016, the Autorité des marchés financiers (“AMF”) laid charges of conspiracy, insider trading, tipping, market manipulation and fraud on the market against Baazov, former CEO of Amaya Gaming (“Amaya”), now known as The Stars Group, Benjamin Ahdoot (“Ahdoot”), a former senior officer of Amaya, and Yoel Altman, a former consultant along with his companies. LCM Attorneys was representing Daniel Sebag, the former CFO of Amaya, who was not charged but called as a prosecution witness.

 

Late last year, Baazov filed a first Jordan type motion after having received nearly 16 million unsorted documents from the AMF only months before the trial was set to begin, arguing that the treatment of this new evidence would inevitably result in postponements and unreasonable delays. The Court rejected this first motion on January 22nd, 2018.

 

The June 6th decision rules on two new motions for stay of proceedings alleging abuse of proceedings. In the context of these motions, the Defendants established that privileged information related to Ahdoot’s defence had been seized, analyzed and used by the AMF’s investigators and prosecutors. When the AMF realized that it had accidentally disclosed over 330,000 potentially privileged documents belonging to third parties, which had been used in the preparation of the trial by all parties, it requested that the documents be returned by the Defendants in order to deal with the applicable privilege issues, which obviously should have been done by the AMF before disclosure to the defendants.

 

After seven weeks of an anticipated 20-week trial, Justice Mascia ordered a complete stay of proceedings, finding that the AMF’s repeated failures to properly disclose documentation to the defence and to protect privileged documents constituted not only an abuse of process and an infringement of the defendants’ right to a make full and complete defence, but also undermined the integrity of the judicial process.

 

The Court insisted that the obligation to disclose rests with the prosecution and must be done in a timely manner. This obligation is a component of the right to a full and complete defense. Even though massive disclosure may be a daunting task, it does not justify in any way the failures of the AMF to properly manage this case. In complex cases, the prosecution has the obligation to elaborate a detailed plan to minimize the delays and organize its disclosure to be easily searchable and accessible.

 

Considering the amount of evidence disclosed in violation of the applicable legal principles, Justice Mascia concluded that no other remedy than the stay of proceedings could remedy the situation.