October 23, 2007

Call for more EU ‘urgency’ following Nylander arrest

The European Commission should act with “more urgency” over the violation proceedings brought by the EU’s Competition Commission against the French, following the detention of Petter Nylander under an arrest warrant issued by the French authorities, says a Swedish MEP.

Christofer Fjellner, a representative from the Swedish Conservatives at the European Parliament, said he hoped to meet with competition commissioner Charlie McCreevy later this week.

He said of the French moves: “The French were given two months to respond (to the Commission’s findings against them). Now it seems the French are going to use the two months to violate fundamental human rights. It makes the matter even more urgent.”

Nylander was detained last night by Dutch customs officials when boarding a plane to London (see earlier Unibet story). Unibet have said this morning that they hope Nylander will be released today. Mark Davies, managing director at Betfair, said there was “no question” that the EU would be aware of events. “They will be asking why has this happened?”

Fjellner noted the French authorities had detained Nylander using a European arrest warrant, “meant for use with organised crime and terrorism”. He accused the French of using the warrant as a “political tool in an effort to prolong the (French gaming) monopoly.” He added: “This is intimidation.”

One industry insider said the arrest of Nylander should act as a “wake-up call for (Charlie) McCreevy”. They added: “It’s about time the French realised this is the 21st Century and not the 19th. It’s ludicrous.”

Clouding the issue is a judgment secured in a Dutch court a fortnight ago on the part of Dutch monopoly operator De Lotto against Unibet. Unibet was reported at the time as saying it had no knowledge of the ruling.

In an interview with eGaming Review in July this year, Nylander said the fight against the monopoly operators across Europe – including the French – was like “having hand grenades under out pillow”. “We are in a war... We all know how it will end. In 10 years maybe it will break down... Efforts to stop us have not worked.

Nylander also commented on the last time the French authorities made a move against online gaming operators when they arrested Bwin’s Manfred Bodner and Norbert Teufelberger. Said Nylander in July: “I was surprised by the brutality... The French psyche is very proud. You need to take it easy there.”