Written On 5/7/11 By Recentpoker.com staff writer Lenny Wasman :
A LIVELY FRIDAY FOR ONLINE POKER FIRMS IN COSTA RICA
But what was the local equivalent of the FBI looking for?
The newswires and online media sites were buzzing late Friday with the news that the offices of online poker companies in Costa Rica had been visited by the local equivalent of the FBI, the Organismo de Investigaciones Judiciale.
Pokerstars, Absolute Poker and UBPoker offices were all named in the reports.
The fact that the various premises visited were all associated in some way with companies named in the Black Friday indictments encouraged speculation that the two enforcement actions were in some way connected, but several sources suggested that securing the monies due to axed employees was the more likely motivation in the case of Absolute Poker and UBPoker.
In the BetonSports case some years ago, for example, similar reasoning was applied.
Absolute Poker and UBPoker have already announced that their Costa Rica operations are being drastically downsized, with 80 percent of a staff complement of 300 being laid off.
Other reports speculated that the OIJ teams were looking for individuals named in the US federal indictments, and yet others surmised that the ‘reviews' were being used as an excuse to access company information for passing on to the US authorities.
Whatever the reason, OIJ teams suddenly appeared at the offices around midday local time, with subsequent television coverage from Channel 7 showing them in one case battering down a door to gain entry, and ‘visiting' a company called Innovative Data Solutions (IDS), believed to be associated with Absolute Poker.
Although Pokerstars is headquartered on the Isle of Man, the company reportedly has a large presence in Costa Rica, employing some two hundred or more people.
Pokerstars' Isle of Man offices subsequently released a statement late Friday night GMT confirming that its Costa Rica operations had been visited by enforcement agents, and the company had cooperated in this "review of operations,” emphasising that its business operations were continuing.
The statement revealed that the OIJ had sent staff home, but that they would be able to return "in a few hours". A Pokerstars spokesman subsequently posted on the twoplustwo message board that the agents had left, and that employees were back at work.
The raids apparently involved six premises in all, some of them private residences, according to Costa Rica media sources, which noted that disgruntled employees impacted by the Absolute Poker and UBPoker lay-offs had complained to local employment authorities, alleging severance irregularities.
Local media outlet Teletica claimed that enforcement teams had visited the homes of persons associated with allegedly senior managers of IDS, including Scott Tom and Brent Beckley, both of whom are named in the US federal indictments. It is not known what the results of those visits were.
The enforcement actions triggered a slew of related message board rumour and speculation, with various posters claiming that FBI agents had been ‘undercover' on the raids; that valuable computer and other records had been seized; that AP/UB has $16 million in available funds but will favour non-US rather than US players in any refunds; that the police raid on the Pokerstars offices had been made in error; and that Blanca Games has rebuffed an approach by investors seeking to buy the non-US Cereus Network business.
None of these reports was supported by corroborative evidence.