Ladbrokes Dodges Regulator Fine for £1 Million Hush Money Payments

Posted on: October 28, 2019, 08:44h. 

Last updated on: October 28, 2019, 11:08h.

British retail-betting giant Ladbrokes has avoided a financial penalty after it was found to have bought the silence of the victims of a gambling-addicted fraudster who blew almost £1 million ($1.2 million USD) in stolen money via the bookmaker.

Dubai based real-estate investor Tony Parente embezzled seven figures from clients and his business partner to fund a self-destructive gambling habit. Now he’s trying to make amends. (Image: BBC)

According to The Guardian, Ladbrokes Coral agreed to pay back £975,000 ($1.2 million) to victims of Tony Parente, the joint owner of Dubai-based real-estate company We Buy Your Property, who robbed clients and his business partner to feed his addiction.

Parente has since tried to make amends, helping to negotiate the settlements with Ladbrokes on behalf of his five victims. The victims lodged a complaint with the bookmaker accusing it of having accepted stolen funds, and demanded their money back, but appear not to have pressed charges against Parente.

Ladbrokes agreed to settle with the victims, but only if they and Parente signed a non-disclosure agreement stating that they would not inform the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) about the incident.

Regulator ‘Not Fit for Purpose’

But Parente appears to have done just that. He told The Guardian on Saturday that the regulator had written to him to say it was “satisfied that the NDA you were signatory of did not breach any of our license conditions or regulatory requirements.”

Labour MP Carolyn Harris told The Guardian that the UKGC’s decision shows the regulatory body is “not fit for purpose” and is “complicit in what is actually abuse – of power and of individuals.”

But the regulator also said it had not yet concluded its investigation, which suggests it may yet fine Ladbrokes for failing to carry out checks into the source of Parente’s funds.

Ladbrokes showered Parente with VIP gifts — including first-class flights and tickets to soccer games — for a period of around two years, when the businessmen was losing up to £60,000 ($77,000) a day with Ladbrokes.

Parente claims the incentives continued during a four-month stint, during which he did not gamble, after he had expressed concerns about his problem to Ladbrokes — although Parente admits he cannot provide email transcripts to support this.

Since Parente’s transgressions took place, Ladbrokes has been acquired by GVC. The UKGC recently fined GVC £5.9 million ($7.6 million) to settle separate past infractions of its new acquisition, which included various social responsibility and anti-money laundering failures.

Flutter Targeted in £1 Million Court Case

Meanwhile, Parente’s former business partner, Amarjeet Singh Dhir, is suing Paddy Power and Betfair owner Flutter Entertainment in London’s High Court for allowing Parente to lose £942,135 ($1.25 million) of his money through Paddy Power, even though he had self-excluded from Betfair.

According to court documents, Parente banned himself for life from Betfair in 2010. But when Paddy Power and Betfair merged in February 2016, he found he was able to open an account with the enlarged company and continue gambling.

Dhir claims he gave Parente the money to invest in property schemes. But instead, he “misappropriated all of the transferred funds.” Parente was even permitted to bet £100,000 in cash at Paddy Power’s land-based outlets, according to filings.

Again, Flutter is accused of encouraging Parente to gamble by sending him gifts while failing to inquire about the source of his funds.