MONTREAL — An insider trading trial against former Amaya CEO David Baazov and his co-accused is set to get underway in the coming weeks after a Quebec judge rejected a defence motion to stay the process over unreasonable delays.
"It was very close at home plate but in the end I accept the arguments of the Autorite des marches financiers, so I reject the motion," provincial court Judge Salvatore Mascia said Monday.
Mascia described the written and oral arguments presented by both sides as "second to none."
However, he wrote in his 22-page ruling that "exceptional circumstances" justified a delay beyond 18 months, the prescribed time limit spelled out by a Supreme Court ruling known as the Jordan decision.
"The applicants have not shown irreparable harm to their right to a fair trial and to a full defence," he said.
"The court therefore comes to the conclusion that the file is particularly complex and the prosecutor has a concrete plan to minimize the delays caused by the complexity of the case."
Mascia said prosecutors have divulged proof several times since charges were laid in March 2016. There was also the mistaken release of millions of files related to a parallel investigation.
In court, the two sides argued for nearly an hour about delays in disclosing more documents. These include more than three million documents and thousands of pages of files that Amaya claims are privileged.
Prosecutors have called the defence request a "fishing expedition" and described it as an exercise in gathering information for another stay request down the road.
Baazov's lawyer, Sophie Melchers, has said that 16 million files were released to the defence in mid-September and that the case won't be able to proceed in a timely fashion.
Mascia originally suggested the trial would begin in about a month, but after hearing from the two sides indicated that a delay may be required to sort out these disclosure issues.
Baazov, 37, has pleaded not guilty to securities-related charges following an investigation Quebec's stock market regulator into the allegations of insider trading.
He is charged with five counts, including influencing or attempting to influence the market price of Amaya's securities.
Two other people, Yoel Altman and Benjamin Ahdoot, and three companies face 18 additional charges stemming from the regulator's investigation and have also pleaded not guilty.
The charges carry penalties of up to five years in prison and $5 million in fines.
The alleged privileged information involves acquisitions that include US$4.9-billion deal for PokerStars in 2014 that transformed the former Montreal firm into the world's largest online poker company.
None of the allegations has been proven in court.
Amaya is now known as The Stars Group Inc. and has moved its operations to Toronto.
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(Companies in this story: TSX:TSGI).