In the United Kingdom and tax authorities have reportedly widened their ongoing investigation into retail and online sportsbook operator GVC Holdings allegedly regarding the activities of its former Turkish subsidiary.
According to a Tuesday report from The Guardian newspaper, the initial probe from Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) was launched earlier this month shortly after the London-listed firm had detailed that Kenneth Alexander would be stepping down as its Chief Executive Officer following some 13 years at the helm.
The Guardian reported that GVC Holdings, which is responsible for the Ladbrokes and Coral-branded chains of retail sportbetting venues, had previously thought that the inquiry was interested in third-party suppliers that had once processed payments for its online operations in Turkey, where such activities are now outlawed.
However, the newspaper reported that GVC, which moreover runs iGaming sites such as PartyPoker.com, Bwin.com and Coral.co.uk, has now been unexpectedly asked to provide more information to HMRC under the precepts of the Bribery Act of 2010, which has sections that relate to failures by British commercial organizations to prevent bribery in territories where they are doing business.
The expanded investigation is thought to be concentrating on ‘potential corporate offending’ by GVC Holdings with regards to its Turkish business, which it offloaded to former IT supplier Ropso Malta in December of 2017 shortly before buying Ladbrokes Coral Group for £3.6 billion ($4.5 billion). The Isle of Man-based firm purportedly decided to get rid of this subordinate due to the risks associated with operating in a country where online gaming is effectively a black-market activity.
GVC had initially reportedly hoped to recoup approximately €150 million ($173.5 million) from the sale of its operation in Turkey although it eventually waived any fees to effectively gift the business to Ropso Malta, whose investors include an individual that co-owns a Scottish stud farm with Alexander.
GVC Holdings was left surprised by the request for additional information and declared that it was ‘disappointed by the lack of clarity provided by HMRC as to the scope of its investigation’. Nevertheless, the operator purportedly disclosed that it ‘continues to cooperate fully with HMRC regarding the provision of information’ even as its share price fell by some 12% due to investor speculation on what could ultimately be behind the examination.