Full Tilt’s Ray Bitar $13million Guernsey Funds Returned to US3 years ago
The financial hell-hole which resulted from the Full Tilt scam run by Ray Bitar may have seemed like a thing of the past, with remission payments ending about this time last year, but funds which were laundered through Guernsey totalling £9.5million ($12.8million) have just been returned to the US Government.
The channel island struck an agreement with US authorities in 2015 and late last week Guernsey's Procurer Megan Pullum QC said the recent return of a share in the ill-gotten gains illustrated the "dedication and persistence" of Guernsey authorities in tracking down stashed funds.
Bitar was the CEO of Full Tilt Poker when Black Friday struck the poker world in 2011, and in 2013 he pleaded guilty to defrauding the site’s customers out of $350million (£261million) after what ought to have been segregated player funds were found to be almost empty, having been used to lavish huge salaries and lifestyles on a number of Full Tilt executives and pros.
Bitar, however, returned only around $40million (£30million) of the missing money and Guernsey has played its part in investigating bank accounts and providing financial records in order to aid US investigators tracking down Bitar’s assets.
In describing the recently returned funds, which totalled £10.6 million ($14.3 million) as it also involved another case, Cullum stated:
"Guernsey has an ongoing and exemplary commitment to international co-operation and mutual legal assistance and we are therefore extremely pleased to announce this asset share."
The BBC reported that John Cronan, from the US Department of Justice's Criminal Division, said he “valued the work of his Guernsey counterparts in this case”.
In an article on the close to $2million sale of one of Bitar’s seized properties in the US, Charles Retmuller explained that ‘Bitar and fellow Full Tilt board members Howard Lederer, Chris Ferguson and Rafe Furst all entered into deals with the DoJ that required serving no time in prison for their mismanagement of Full Tilt Poker.’
He added: “Taking Bitar's grave medical condition into consideration and under the belief that proper care could not be received in prison, US District Judge Loretta Preska sentenced Bitar to time served, which amounted to only seven days in jail after being arrested upon his return to the U.S.”
Bitar's attorney told the court that “the odds of his client surviving into 2014 without a heart transplant were a coinflip at best,” but in January 2016 a healthy – and wealthy – looking Bitar was snapped at his lavish wedding ceremony to Jacquelyn Lucas, leading poker media editor Remko Rinkema to tweet…
The bulk of the Full Tilt Poker remission funds were included as part of a deal which saw PokerStars buy the Full Tilt brand, and as Charles Retmuller pointed out, ‘the final tally comes to 97% of filed petitions paid and 3% denied. In actual dollars, over $114 million went into the pockets of more than 45,000 U.S. players via nine separate batches of payments.
He added: ‘To practically no one's surprise, some $45 million is left over from the $160 million originally earmarked for players’, and last week’s chunk of Bitar’s Guernsey millions will also be unlikely to end up in poker players’ pockets.
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