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Rabbi suing securities watchdog for ‘illegal’ 2016 raid

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The Autorité des marches financiers' offices in Quebec City. (Google Street View)

The director of a Montreal-area Chabad centre that was raided three years ago, during the investigation of a since-abandoned criminal case, is reportedly suing Quebec’s securities regulator.

Rabbi Shalom Chriqui of the Centre Chabad on Van Horne Avenue is claiming that he, the centre and its affiliated youth group is owed $300,000 in damages from the Autorité des marches financiers (AMF).

In his suit, he claims that the 2016 raid was “abusive and illegal” and has hurt the organization’s reputation. A third of the amount sought is for exemplary damages.

The raid was in connection with the AMF’s inquiry into the Montreal-based online gambling company Amaya Inc. and its CEO, David Baazov, for insider trading. The AMF suspected that money related to the scheme was being laundered through the religious charitable organization.

As was reported at the time, the AMF seized $87,000 in cash that it believed was profit from the scheme that was received from a former Amaya consultant. The AMF found a briefcase containing 4,350 $20 bills in Rabbi Chriqui’s car at the Chabad centre.

The filing notes that the raid lasted almost an entire day and, in addition to the AMF investigators, officers of the provincial Sûreté du Québec were also on the scene.

READ: MONTREAL CHABAD CENTRE DENIES CONNECTION TO ALLEGED AMAYA SCAM

The attention it drew was highly prejudicial to Rabbi Chriqui and the two organizations named in the suit, Centre Chabad and the Organisation de la jeunesse Chabad Loubavitch, Rabbi Chriqui claims.

“The Centre Chabad has had a lot of difficulty in finding financing since the seizure, whether from private lenders or financial institutions,” the statement of claim reads.

It further states that the person suspected of trying to launder money through the centre had “frequently” made loans to it, which were “paid back quickly.”

Rabbi Chriqui claims that the cash seized was destined for a children’s summer camp that was opening the following week and that it came from fundraising activities, including a gala, an auction and voluntary contributions made by visitors to a retreat in Ste-Agathe-des-Monts, Que., of which Rabbi Chriqui is also the director.

Rabbi Chriqui took legal action at the time, claiming the money was illegally seized because it was found outside the address listed on the search warrant and without evidence that it was connected to criminal activity.

Following its 2014 acquisition of PokerStars for close to US$5 million, Amaya, which was founded by Baazov, became the largest publicly traded online gambling company in the world.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his wife, Laureen, light the first Chanukah candle as Rabbi Shalom Chriqui looks on. JASON RANSOM PMO PHOTO
Former prime minister Stephen Harper and his wife, Laureen, light the first Chanukah candle in December 2014 as Rabbi Shalom Chriqui looks on. JASON RANSOM PMO PHOTO

In 2016, Baazov was accused of five counts of influencing, or attempting to influence, the market price of Amaya stock and communicating privileged information to family, friends and associates.

He resigned as head of the company shortly afterwards, but pleaded not guilty to all the charges.

The trial against Baazov and his co-defendants ended in 2018, when a Quebec Court judge stayed the proceedings. However, the AMF only dropped the last of its three lines of inquest into Amaya last month.

In March, Baazov launched a $2-million lawsuit against AMF, claiming the charges against him were “abusive” and “malicious.”

In his filing, Baazov said he will donate whatever he may win to five Montreal charities.

The AMF has said it will defend against Baazov’s and Rabbi Chriqui’s claims.

Amaya has since been renamed Stars Group Inc. and moved its headquarters to Toronto.