PokerStars faces fraud accusations

By David Cook
Online operator PokerStars has been accused by the Italian financial police of a €300m tax fraud.

Rome’s finance police, the Guardia di Finanza del Comando Provinciale di Roma, accused PokerStars of using subsidiaries of its former parent company the Rational Group to avoid tax obligations between 2009 and 2014.

Transfer pricing methods are alleged to have been used by PokerStars’ Halfords Media Italy subsidiary to transfer income generated in Italy to other subsidiaries in the Isle of Man and Malta, where gaming tax rates are lower.

PokerStars Italy’s managing director has been accused of fraud and tax evasion to the tune of €300m, the Italian police confirmed, announcing that the accused would be charged with tax evasion for “the implementation of this complex criminal design”.

The investigation has been dubbed “All-In”, and according to Italian authorities, Halfords Media Italy wrongfully reported part of its revenues in order to avoid higher taxation.

PokerStars received a Malta Gaming Authority licence in 2012 for its pokerstars.eu website, which is only available to the European market.

PokerStars stated at that time: “We expect our Malta license will immediately benefit players who have told us they want to share in the benefits - such as clarity around taxation - that some jurisdictions offer to sites with a license from European Union nations."

The Rational Group’s parent company the Oldford Group was bought by Amaya Gaming for $4.9bn in August.

PokerStars head of corporate communications Eric Hollreiser said: “PokerStars has been working with Italian tax authorities since they launched an audit several years ago.

“We have operated in compliance with the applicable local tax regulations and have paid €120 million over the period covered by the audit.”

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