October 23, 2007

Unibet chief arrested

Peter Nylander, chief executive at Unibet, has been detained while boarding a flight in Holland under an arrest warrant issued by the French authorities.

In a statement, Unibet has said the arrest pertained to proceedings filed in 2006 by the French gaming monopolies Francaise des Jeux (FDJ) and the PMU. The charges relate to breaches of laws dating back to 1836 and 1891.

The company said it is “outraged by France’s total disregard of European Community law aiming to protect a domestic commercial gambling monopoly, which is being challenged by the European Commission”.

The company added that though it was aware of the possibility of action being taken it was still "surprised” by the move.

“In March 2007, the European Court of Justice ruled in the Placanica case, confirming that betting services are covered by the EU Treaty. The court also confirmed that criminal proceedings brought against legitimate operators based in other EU member states are in contradiction with the EU Treaty.

The company adds that on 27 June, the EU Commission issued a reasoned opinion against France, in relation with the infringement proceedings concerning France's restrictions on sports betting. Furthermore, on 10 July, the highest jurisdiction in France (Cour de cassation) overturned a decision that banned a Maltese company from offering online betting on horse races in France. Finally, the French government has stated its will to open a discussion with the European Commission towards a regulated opening of the French online gaming market.

Unibet’s chief financial officer and deputy chief executive Ragnar Hellenius has been appointed by the board of Unibet as acting chief executive until Nylander is released. He commented: “This situation is clearly unacceptable and extraordinary in ours and in any industry. It is our view that this use of the possibility for cross-border legal actions is a clear abuse of their true aim, and in all aspects, disproportionate. Unibet is licensed in the UK, Malta and Italy for gambling, listed on the OMX Nordic Stock Exchange and a company complying with European law. This is clearly a breach of the EU Treaty and the fundamental principles of the European Union.

Hellenius concluded: “We are upset of this unlawful act and harassment against our company and a citizen of Europe and we will take every action possible to bring this matter to justice. This criminalisation of a specific individual is a tactic that we have seen French authorities using before and something we will not tolerate. We take for granted that Petter Nylander will be released immediately.”