The “Paradise Papers,” a leaked set of 13.4 million confidential documents, exposed offshore investment for more than 120,000 people and companies including Queen Elizabeth II, US Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross, and now four-star general Wesley Clark, who has a poker connection.
Involvement with Amaya
Ret. General Wesley Clark is a Vietnam veteran who rose to become NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander in Europe during the Kosovo War.
He also would become a quiet advocate for online gambling in countries around the world, and eventually served on the board of directors for Amaya Inc., at the time a relatively small gambling software provider. Amaya vaulted into poker consciousness in 2014 when the company purchased PokerStars, the world’s largest online poker site, for $4.9 billion.
That deal was spearheaded by Amaya founder and CEO David Baazov, who soon found himself plagued by scandal in which he was charged by a Quebec securities regulator on allegations of insider trading related to the PokerStars acquisition.
According the Paradise Papers, Amaya’s directors established Amaya Intellectual Holdings Ltd. in 2014 with the purpose of having the subsidiary hold all of the company’s intellectual property. Documents from Appleby’s, the registered agent for Amaya’s various subsidiaries and source of the leaked trove of paper trails, revealed that a year later Clark became the sole shareholder of Amaya Intellectual Holdings Ltd., though he had no controlling interest. Instead, it was Baazov who was to be the beneficial owner of that subsidiary
Clark resigned as CEO of Amaya Intellectual Holdings in August 2016. A year later, Amaya would be restructuring itself after the ouster of Baazov, renaming the company The Stars Group Inc., and relocating its headquarters to Toronto..
Despite being identified as a member of Amaya’s corporate governance committee overseeing confidentiality and trading policy in a government report, Clark has not been accused of wrongdoing. As with all documents released as part of the Paradise Papers, they do not imply guilt or come with any presumption of malfeasance, though they do shed light on the inner workings of global finance conducted legally but out of public view.
Meanwhile, Baazov has pleaded not guilty to charges of insider trading and securities fraud and is scheduled to go on trial in Montreal later this month.
Who is Wesley Clark?
According to his website, 72-year-old Wesley Clark spent 38 years in the US Army after graduating as valedictorian of his class at West Point. He also completed degrees in philosophy, politics, and economics as a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University.
Clark served his country in Vietnam commanding an infantry company and was severely wounded. Toward the end of his military career, Clark led NATO forces in Operation Allied Force, which helped save more than 1.5 million Albanians from ethnic cleansing in Kosovo.
Among his many awards are the Presidential Medal of Freedom, Purple Heart, and France’s Commander of the Legion of Honor.
Upon retiring from military life in 2000, he turned his focus to becoming a businessman, investment banker, and author. Three years later, he became a Democratic candidate for President of the United States, with his campaign evening winning the state primary in Oklahoma.
After his presidential bid fell flat, Clark endorsed eventual Democratic nominee John Kerry and returned to the private sector. Since then, he has written three books and serves in leadership positions with numerous non-profit public service organizations.
Clark met Baazov in 2010. At the time, the 29-year-old upstart CEO was preparing to take Amaya Gaming public on the Toronto Stock Exchange, and the retired general was advocating for gambling-generated tax revenue in small countries to strengthen their governments and therefore support global peace.