Two former top executives at Bwin.party, an online gambling operator, face bribery charges related to a failed application in 2007 for a Turkish sports betting license.
Austrian media outlet Trend reported this week that on January 13 Vienna’s public prosecutor had filed charges of money laundering, breach of trust and corruption against either individuals, including Manfred Bodner and Norbert Teufelberger (pictured, left) betting operator Bwin’s two former top execs. In 2001 Bwin merged with rival PartyGaming to form Bwin.party.
The ruckus stems from Bwin’s frustration over its failed attempts in 2007 to obtain a sports betting license in Turkey. After having no success via official channels, several lobbyists were hired by Bwin, who did the same in Turkey and hired Ali Ocak, who told the digital entertainment company that if they provided him with €2.25m, he could obtain the elusive license. According to the indictment, the money was transferred by Bwin to a Lichtenstein company called Cort International Establishment. Bwin claims the money was intended as a consulting fee. Subsequently, Bwin did receive a Turkish betting license, but shortly after discovered it was not legit. The following year Bwin publicly announced that due to the charade it would take a €2.25m write-down. At the same time Bwin launched legal proceedings against the individuals they believed had duped them, according to CalvinAyre.
Meanwhile, Austrian authorities opened an investigation of their own, and one of the accused reportedly told them that the €2.25m from Bwin was used to bribe Turkish officials. That was the claim that led to the decision by Vienna’s prosecutor to file his indictment against the executives from Bwin. eGaming Review was issued an statement from Bwin insisting that the charges were “without merit” and that an appeal had been filed by Bodner and Teufelberger to have the case dismissed. Both of the execs were “fully confident” that the courts would side with them “in due course.”
This isn’t the first trip to court for Teufelberger and Bodner. In 2006, the pair was arrested in Nice for illegally offering online gambling services to French gamblers without a local gaming license. The case lasted for eight years before the charges were finally dismissed in 2014. In 2012, Teufelberger was arrested in Belgium over a similar lack of a local license. After he belatedly agreed to follow the country’s regulatory requirements, no charges were filed. A few days prior to those charges being dropped by the French court, Bodner was ousted from the Bwin.party board, while Teufelberger remained the company’s CEO until GVC Holdings acquired Bwin.party last year. Teufelberger is still a non-executive director of the expanded GVC.