Sweden Multipoker Tax Case Resurfaces in Mossack Fonseca Data Leak

An old tax and money-laundering case involving one of Sweden’s earliest and most popular online poker sites is among the gambling-related episodes connected to the secretive business-fronting operations of Panama’s Mossack Fonseca law firm.  Multipoker, whose three founders were indicted by Swedish tax authorities back in 2007, then sentenced in 2011 to three years in prison over SEK 40 million (about US $6.4 million or €4.3 million) in owed taxes on undeclared or hidden income.

online pokerThe three Swedes, Patrik Nordström, Per Deshayes (who served as Multipoker’s CEO), and well-known Swedish-born and current Cyprus-based poker pro Per Ummer used the services of Mossack Fonseca way back in 2003 to set up a parent company for Multipoker called EPR Investments.  EPR Investments, as with many thousands of the Mossack Fonseca-created entities was designated as an “International Business Company” and incorporated in the British Virgin Islands, a Caribbean tax haven.

The three men sold off Multipoker in late 2005 to PartyGaming, and were also alleged to have hid the proceeds of that USD $14.5 million sale from the Swedish tax authorities by having the sale proceeds deposited into Swiss bank accounts.  The Swedish case, however, dealt only with the pre-sale activities of Multipoker, which Sweden’s Skatteverket och Ekobrottsmyndigheten (the Swedish Economic Crime Authority0 alleged was being actively run from the central Swedish town of Skara, despite: being incorporated in the BVI; using a home page hosted on a UK server; and having the gaming operation itself run out of Canada’s Kahnawake Reserve.

Nordström was acquitted of the most serious tax charges brought by Swedish officials, since he had fully reported his miscellaneous income.  Incomplete reports infer that neither Deshayes nor Ummer had declared their income as fully, though both men claimed that their emigration from Sweden during this period meant that their income was not taxable in Sweden.  Ummer had relocated to Cyprus, while Deshayes moved at least twice, first to Thailand and later to the US.  (Both men were initially arrested in absentia but appear to have voluntarily negotiated a return to Sweden for the case.)  However, the Swedish officials were able to produce evidence that board meetings and executive control emanated from the area of Skara, where the three men once lived.

Despite the official three-year sentences and an additional five-year probation term for each, it’s not clear from the limited public reports that the three Multipoker owners ever served those full terms.  Long-time poker player Per Ummer’s Hendon Mob page, for example, shows no tourney cashes for 2011, but does show him cashing in a tourney in Cyprus in August of 2012.  That would not have been possible had Ummer served anywhere near the full three years that the news reports suggest.

Earlier Swedish-language reports also suggest Ummer and the others helped secrete as much as SEK 500 million (roughly USD $75 million) in assets within the EPR Investments (BPI) umbrella.  The latest Mossack Fonseca-related information offers no extra insight on that matter.  Ummer himself was initially assessed the largest penalty by Sweden’s tax authorities, some SEK 17.5 million, before the adjudicating of the case.

As with earlier gambling-related allegations within both current and previous Mossack Fonseca leaks that link to Playtech’s Teddy Sagi and Amaya’s David Baazov, the Multipoker episode is likely to be only a small portion of the full MOSFON tale.  German news outlet Süddeutsche Zeitung, which first obtained the leaked data, and the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) have tentatively announced plans to release in May the full list of tax-shelter business entities created through Mossack Fonseca.  Well over 100,000 corporate entities are expected to be listed, many for the first time.  Some of the gambling world’s most questionable corporate arrangements are likely to be exposed publicly in the weeks and months that follow.


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