Unibet exec arrested on French warrant


Another online gaming company executive has been arrested because of his connection to online gambling. This time it was Unibet CEO Petter Nylander, who was detained Monday in Amsterdam because of a warrant issued in France.

Unibet, which operates Unibet Poker, announced the arrest to the media along with a statement about the matter.

According to the company, Nylander was detained by Dutch authorities after checking in for a flight that would take him back to his home in the United Kingdom.

His detention is the result of proceedings filed in 2006 by Française des Jeux, the French lottery monopoly, and PMU, the horse betting monopoly, against Unibet. The suit alleges that Unibet breached French national laws from 1836 and 1891 protecting state-owned monopolies.

"While the company was aware of the possibility of this action by the French authorities, the timing of it is very surprising," says Unibet in its press release.

The French government had recently stated it was open to discussing with the European Commission a regulated opening of the French online gambling market. This comes after a ruling in March 2007 by the European Court of Justice in the Placanica case that confirmed that betting services are covered by the European Union Treaty.

The European Court of Justice also confirmed that criminal proceedings brought against legitimate operators based in other EU member states constitute violations of the EU Treaty as well.

In June, the EU Commission issued a reasoned opinion against France concerning proceedings dealing with France's restrictions on sports betting.

Along with the recent change in tone by the French government, the highest jurisdiction in France overturned a July 10 decision that banned a Maltese company from offering online betting on horse races in the nation.

The warrant used to detain Nylander is not in line with France's recent change of heart in regards to online gambling.

Unibet said it is outraged by France's disregard for EU law. Though it finds the French authorities' methods disturbing, the gaming company is proceeding with business as usual.

"This situation is clearly unacceptable and extraordinary in ours and in any industry," said Ragnar Hellenius, Unibet CFO, Deputy CEO and acting CEO until Nylander is released.

"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."

He said the company is licensed in the United Kingdom, Malta and Italy for gambling, as well as listed on the OMX Nordic Stock Exchange, and in compliance with European law. The action taken against them is clearly a breach of the EU Treaty and the fundamental principles of the European Union.

"We are upset [by] this unlawful act and harassment [of] our company and a citizen of Europe and we will take every action possible to bring this matter to justice," Hellenius said.

"This criminalization 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."

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