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No More Lending Money to Self-Excluded Gamblers in Ukraine, Future of KRAIL Uncertain

ukraine-to-ban-money-lending-to-self-excluded-gamblersIn the middle of an international crisis, Ukraine is trying to improve its gambling regulations and maintain the market secure and safe. New changes have been proposed by the government, and if they’re accepted, banks won’t be able to lend money to self-excluded customers.

The Committee of the Verkhovna Rada on Finance, Tax, and Customs Policy proposed an amendment that will ensure banks are double checking if the individuals who are requesting lends aren’t self-excluded from betting, including both online gambling and various land-based casinos in the country. Those not on the list of self-excluded gamblers won’t be able to get credit from the bank. The amendment has not been approved yet.

Growing Rate

The Ukrainian Commission for the Regulation of Gambling and Lotteries (KRAIL) a few months ago announced that the number of self-excluded players is increasing, and that was concerning to all included parties in Ukraine.

From January to April this year, 245 people made it to this list. Compared to last year, when the entire list consisted of 315 people, and 2021 when there were only 195 people total, the number of 687 by the end of April was a massive increase.

This isn’t the first change of the gambling law in Ukraine in the recent period. Only last month, the new law regarding procedures required for organizations subjected to anti-money laundering and counter-terrorist financing risk was approved, and Ukrainian operators will have to pass more detailed inspections. Operators are warned about unscheduled inspections as well. The government’s action plan for 2023 included new KRAIL proposals, including a whole set of new regulations related to canceling and suspending licenses. One of the main points of discussion was whether the operators who are offering their services in occupied territories should continue working.

Future of KRAIL up in the air

KRAIL keeps working on new regulations, but its future is also uncertain. Mykhailo Fedorov, the Deputy Prime Minister of Ukraine, in May, submitted a proposal that can make KRAIL be replaced by the new regulatory body. Besides being a Deputy Prime Minister, Fedorov is also a Minister for Digital Transformation, and his main concern about the body is its failure when it comes to the late issuing of gambling licenses to operators.

KRAIL currently consists of a chairman and six members, and for a license to be approved, five members must be present at a meeting. When the war began, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, a President, signed the major decree “On the introduction of martial law in Ukraine”, which led to some KRAIL members being mobilized into military service, which prevented KRAIL meetings from happening.

Source: “Ukraine Gambling Regulations Self Exclusion”. iGaming Business. August 7, 2023.

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Would-Be British Lawyer Jailed for Gambling Away Company Money

An aspiring lawyer in the UK will, in a few years, be an older, out-of-work former prison inmate unable to practice law. While finishing his education to become a licensed attorney, Tauseef Sadeeq decided to embezzle funds at the law firm where he was an apprentice, using the money to gamble.

Tauseef Sadeeq at a British courthouse
Tauseef Sadeeq at a British courthouse. Sadeeq is going to prison for three years after stealing money from the legal firm where he worked. (Image: Cavendish Press (Manchester) Ltd)

Last week, a court judge convicted the 31-year-old of stealing £100,000 (US$121,770) of client compensation. His dishonesty caused significant harm to the law firm, damaging its reputation in the legal community.

Sadeeq was previously employed at Jacob Miller Solicitors, a personal injury firm located in Bolton, a town in Greater Manchester. He began working there as a paralegal before being promoted to the position of trainee. Interestingly, Sadeeq was the first trainee ever appointed at the firm and could be the last.

Pattern of Deception

Last week, the would-be lawyer admitted to committing fraud 20 times by exploiting his position at the law firm. Over a year, he defrauded multiple insurance companies by presenting his personal NatWest bank account information instead of the company’s to receive payments. He successfully siphoned off up to £8,000 (US$9,741) at a time through the scam.

Sadeeq was able to get the bank to transfer to him £100,437 (US$122,302). He took another £2,000 (US$2,435) from the company. When the law firm found out in March 2021, it let him go and pressed charges.

His ruse came to an end during a regular audit of the company’s books. Two payments seemed out of place and he tried to sidestep questions from the firm’s accountants. When asked about the funds received earlier, his initial statement was that the money was meant to cover the previous payments. He later retracted his claim and said the transfers had been authorized erroneously.

Following this revelation, an office manager requested copies of payment request forms but received only fabricated documents. That led to a deeper investigation and Sadeeq’s dismissal and date with the penal system.

Instead of owning up to his inability to control himself, Sadeeq blamed it all on gambling. Daily, he had succumbed to the allure of the game, wracking up debts that he simply couldn’t afford to pay.

He told the court that out of desperation, he resorted to stealing from his own company to cover his mounting losses. As a result, he’ll now have two years behind bars to break the gambling habit.

Law Firm on the Brink

Following the unacceptable behavior demonstrated by Sadeeq, the company promptly implemented a comprehensive strategy aimed to restore trust with its clients and the general public. The strategy entailed the recruitment of two highly qualified lawyers who would specifically focus on resolving the damages arising from the incident.

Hasib Khan, the firm’s director, told the court that due to the outbreak of COVID-19, the company had already been experiencing substantial financial losses. Sadeeq’s actions exacerbated the situation and its partners had to pay £400,000 (US$487,080) out of pocket to cover the losses. This led to the firm laying off eight employees.

Things got worse from there. When the incident happened, it made its way through the news, causing damage to the reputation of the law firm. In light of this, many of the firm’s clients severed their business ties with the company.

The judge, Martin Walsh, said that Sadeeq was guilty of a “considerable and gross breach of trust.” He’s not alone; even the wayward would-be lawyer’s brother can no longer trust him. The sibling was on his way to becoming a police officer but had his application pulled due to the crimes.

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888 Shares Plunge as CEO Walks Amid Middle East Money Laundering Probe

Shares in online gambling giant 888 Holdings [LON: 888] plunged almost 27% in early trading Monday. That’s after the Gibraltar-based company announced CEO Itai Pazner had quit amid an internal review that found deficiencies in its anti-money laundering (AML) program.

888 Holdings CEO Itai Pazner
888 Holdings CEO Itai Pazner
Itai Pazner, above, left his role at 888 on Monday morning under mysterious circumstances. He had been CEO of the online gambling giant for around four years. (Image: 888 Holdings)

In a filing to the London Stock Exchange, 888 said it had chosen to suspend VIP activities in the Middle East, pending the outcome of an internal compliance investigation.

“[…]it has come to light that certain best practices have not been followed in regard to KYC (Know Your Client) and AML (Anti-Money Laundering) processes for 888 VIP customers in the in the Middle East region,” said 888.

“The Board currently estimates that the impact is less than 3% of Group revenues, should the suspensions remain in place. Based on the Board’s current understanding, the process deficiencies identified are isolated to this region only,” it added.

Biggest Single-Day Downswing

Whatever the exact nature of the crisis at 888, investors were spooked, wiping more than a quarter off the value of the company in one morning. It was the biggest single-day downswing in 888’s history.

888 said its current chairman Lord Jonathan Mendelsohn will become executive chair on an interim basis, as the company searches for a replacement for Pazner.

Meanwhile, CFO Yariv Dafna has said he will remain in his role until the end of the year. He had been due to leave at the end of March.

The board and I take the group’s compliance responsibilities incredibly seriously,” Mendelsohn said in a statement. “When we were alerted to issues with some of 888’s VIP customers, the board took decisive actions. We will be uncompromising in our approach to compliance as we build a strong and sustainable business.”

Past Troubles

Pazner held the top role at 888 for four years. Previously, he was COO, and before that he spent six years as VP of the group’s B2C division.

Last year, the UK Gambling Commission fined the company £9.4 million (US$11.6 million) for social responsibility and AML failings. It was one of the highest fines the regulator had ever levied, and it came four and a half years after it had dished out a £7.8 million (US$9.5 million) penalty to 888 for failing to protect vulnerable customers.

Andrew Rhodes, UKGC chief executive, said last year that any future infractions by 888 would give the regulator cause to “seriously consider the suitability of the operator to uphold the licensing objectives and keep gambling safe and crime-free.”

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