Karent Sierra and Joanna Krupa attend the Hollywood Charity Series of Poker Supported By PokerStars To Benefit Habitat For Humanity at Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino & Hard Rock Cafe Hollywood on Aug. 27, 2014 in Hollywood, Florida.
Photograph by Gustavo Caballero—Getty Images
By Jonathan Chew
March 29, 2016

David Baazov, chief executive of the world’s largest online gaming company, has taken an indefinite leave of absence to fight insider trading charges leveled against him.

Amaya, the Quebec-based parent company of online sites PokerStars and Full Tilt, announced in a press release on Tuesday that Baazov would be stepping back after Quebec regulators charged the CEO with five counts of insider-trading.

“I believe that stepping down in the short term will help to avoid distraction for the company and its management while I vigorously contest all allegations made against me and pursue my bid to acquire the company,” Baazov said in a statement.

Quebec’s Autorité des marchés financiers also froze the bank and trading accounts of 13 other individuals—including Baazov’s brother Josh—for trading while receiving privileged information about Amaya, and for booking profits of nearly $1.15 million between 2011 and 2016.

The charges are a part of what has been called the largest insider trading investigation in Canadian history, and the period of trading mentioned in the orders coincide with Amaya’s $3.8 billion-takeover of poker sites PokerStars and Full Tilt.

That deal made Amaya the owner of the two of the most popular poker sites in the world, and has resulted in 100 million registered players under them. However, the acquisition also raised many suspicions, as Amaya’s stock was trading up prior to the deal despite its status as a minor, financially-challenged company, reported the Wall Street Journal.

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