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Rabbi sues Quebec securities watchdog over ‘unlawful’ raid

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A Montreal rabbi is suing Quebec’s securities regulator for raiding his home under a search warrant that was actually targeting the previous owner of the house, from whom it was purchased more than five years earlier.

In seeking damages totalling $230,000, Rabbi Momi Pinto alleges that he and his family’s rights were infringed, that he has suffered harm to his reputation and that he, his wife and three children were traumatized.

Furthermore, he claims that the raid was unlawful, because the warrant was obtained based on faulty information.

None of the allegations have been proven in court.

The lawsuit was filed against the Autorité des marchés financiers (AMF), which obtained the warrant to enter the Pinto home on McLynn Avenue in Montreal’s Snowdon district on Sept. 12 at 6:45 a.m., in connection with its investigation into the Amaya Inc. insider trading case.

The six AMF investigators and two uniformed police officers were authorized to conduct a search solely of the property Yosef Ifergan, from whom Pinto bought the duplex in 2012, the lawsuit states. The lawsuit provides evidence that Ifergan, who was an Amaya shareholder, was living in Calgary at the time of the raid.

The complaint states that Pinto does not know Ifergan, and that he has never been in the house since Pinto took possession of it. It also claims that the family has no connection to Amaya, or anyone implicated in the case against it.

The investigators spent six hours in the Pinto home going through the family’s belongings, including their computers and phones. The lawsuit says that they were treated cavalierly, when they insisted that the investigators were targeting the wrong people. Throughout that time, police cars were parked outside, drawing the neighbours’ attention, Pinto claims.

“The AMF found absolutely nothing, not even the most tenuous link, to the charges they were supposed to be investigating,” the lawsuit states.

The family’s lawyer, Julius Grey, said that the AMF was acting on faulty information: an out-of-date Amaya shareholder registry, which had Ifergan’s old address.

Rabbi Pinto argues that the raid violated his privacy, as well as that of others, as he is a member of the beit din (rabbinical court) and had confidential information on his electronic devices.

The AMF will contest the complaint, spokesperson Sylvain Théberge told the Globe and Mail, but would not comment further.

According to the lawsuit, when she went to obtain the warrant, AMF investigator Laurianne Carrière said that she saw Ifergan twice at the Pinto home, on Aug. 30 and 31, once entering and another time leaving the house. The lawsuit alleges that, in the first instance, she did not record the license plate or type of vehicle that the person arrived in, and that, the second time, she dialed Ifergan’s phone number and saw a man put a phone to his ear, but failed to provide and information on whether Ifergan answered, or what was said.

“It is clear that the person she saw could not have been Mr. Ifergan because he was not in the province on that day and because he has not set foot in the plaintiff’s residence since they took possession of the house,” the lawsuit states. “Plaintiff Pinto and Mr. Ifergan look completely different in their appearance, aside from the fact that both men have beards and wear Jewish skullcaps.”

Amaya became one of the largest online gaming companies in the world, following its acquisition of PokerStars in 2014. In March 2016, Amaya founder and former CEO David Baazov and five other people were charged with insider trading and market manipulation. The case is still pending.

After Baazov’s resignation, the company changed its name to The Stars Group and moved from Montreal to Toronto. Ifergan is not one of the accused.