Friday 17 November 2017

Irish bank accounts listed in gaming firm legal action

Jerome Reilly

Jerome Reilly

TEN bank accounts held in Irish financial insititutions have been cited in the legal action being taken by prosecutors in New York who claim that Full Tilt Poker, the global online gaming business, is not a legitimate company but a global Ponzi scheme that defrauded hundreds of millions of dollars from online card players.

The financial accounts are held in National Irish Bank (5), Allied Irish Bank (2), Irish Permanent Treasury (2), and Bank of Scotland Ireland (1), and are identified in a complaint filed in the Southern District of New York.

At the same time, there are fears for hundreds of jobs at Cherrywood in Dublin, where Pocket Kings provides IT customer services and marketing for Full Tilt Poker.

Full Tilt Poker, the owner of Pocket Kings, paid its board members more than $440m (€326m) with money that should have been held back to pay winnings to online poker players, US prosecutors have claimed. Prosecutors last week asked that the latest allegations be added to charges of illegal gambling, bank fraud, and money laundering first levelled against executives at the company in April.

Full Tilt Poker has denied the claims made by the US Justice Department on Wednesday that the online poker site was a massive "global Ponzi scheme". They claimed that the issues may have been the result of mismanagement, not malice, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal.

"While the government has obviously taken issue with the underlying activities of FTP, under any reasonable interpretation, the worldwide operations of the online cardroom are not a so-called Ponzi scheme," said Ian Imrich, an attorney for Full Tilt owner and board member Chris "Jesus" Ferguson.

US prosecutors have accused self-styled "Poker Professor" Howard Lederer and professional poker champion Christopher Ferguson along with other Full Tilt directors of paying themselves more than $440m (€326m), while defrauding other players.

Raymond Bitar, a Full Tilt director, also was named in the federal court motion. Bitar, a former equities trader has residency in both the US and Ireland.

He regularly worked in Cherrywood but employees who spoke to the Reuters news agency said they hadn't seen him in some time.

Manhattan attorney Preet Bharara said in legal papers filed last Tuesday that Full Tilt "cheated and abused its own players to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars", and that "insiders lined their own pockets with funds picked from the pockets of their most loyal customers while blithely lying to both players and the public alike about the safety and security of the money deposited with the company".

The US government alleges that Full Tilt executives misled the website's players, telling them that the money the company was supposed to be holding in their accounts was safe.

"In reality, Full Tilt Poker did not maintain funds sufficient to repay all players, and, in addition, the company used player funds to pay board members and other owners more than $440m since April 2007," Bharara said.

The papers include details and identity numbers of more than 70 accounts held all over the world, including the 10 in Ireland.

Sunday Independent

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