Thursday April 28,2016 : METRO PLAY SAGA NEARS ITS END (Update)
Liquidator sends final report to creditors.
The sad saga of online gambling websites Metro Play and 666Bet appears to be drawing to a close following the liquidator's report to creditors, which offers them little comfort and lists a total debt of GBP 1,285,965.84, but no recoverable assets to meet the company's obligations to its creditors.
The creditor list includes customers and a number of online gambling suppliers, with a GBP 20,000 liquidator's fee provision for KPMG.
Pound sterling customers alone are owed GBP883,873, the report shows.
The report goes into considerable detail on the enquiries and accounting carried out by the liquidators in their efforts to fulfil their mandate.
Our readers will recall that last year the Alderney Official Gazette posted a notice indicating that Metro Play Ltd., which owned the 666Bet.com and MetroPlay.com online gambling sites, had been placed in compulsory liquidation following financial and other troubles.
The company's UK Gambling Commission licence had earlier been suspended following the dramatic arrest of 666Bet director and wealthy Isle of Man businessman Paul Bell as part of a GBP 21 million money laundering and VAT fraud investigation by the British authorities.
Six other individuals were also arrested, 13 properties were raided and GBP 1 million in cash seized as part of the police and Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs Operation Bannock.
Bell, who has denied any wrongdoing, was later released by the police.
The KPMG report records that in June last year the compulsory liquidation order was made due to the inability of the company to pay its debts.
Linda Johnson and David Standish of KPMG were appointed to wind the company up and look after the interests of the creditors, a task that clearly proved difficult due to problems in recovering any assets which might be distributed to creditors or could fund further investigations.
The liquidators note that should any creditor wish to provide additional funding for further investigations they would be prepared to discuss the matter.
In August of 2014 – a year before the troubles at MetroPlay came to a head, the entire issued share capital of the company was acquired by Trumeto, an Isle of Man company ultimately owned by Paul and Glenn Bell, with Paul Bell the de facto principal in KPMG's view, but a UK man named Henry Bull listed as sole director.
Bull apparently told the liquidators that the company's cash flow difficulties began in March 2015 following adverse results at the Cheltenham horse racing festival.
The liquidators also report that despite numerous attempts to engage with Bell he has been reluctant to speak to them directly, but that they have discovered another company he allegedly owned – Hexagon UK – which went into voluntary liquidation in June last year owing GBP 10.3 million.
The books and records of the company are being held by Operation Bannock investigators and liquidators have limited access; however, there appears to have been a financial association with the MetroPlay gambling sites.
The MetroPlay websites were operated for the company by EveryMatrix, which after some coaxing has provided the liquidator with the player database for the websites, which the liquidators may sell to other operators to raise more funds for the liquidation process.
The bottom line for creditors appears to be paragraphs in the creditor's report which advise that after taking legal advice there is "insufficient evidence, supporting documentation, commercial rationale or funding" to bring successful recovery claims against the company's de facto and de jure directors, principals or third party service providers.
The liquidators also conclude that they have not been able to recover any substantial assets and are therefore unable to offer any distribution to creditors.
Some MetroPlay customers were apparently more fortunate than others; the liquidator notes that prior to the liquidation some players received payments from a processing company titled Arion Services Limited, but claim they were rebuffed when they approached the company for information, and as it does not have a direct contractual relationship with MetroPlay they were unable to pursue that line of enquiry.
The liquidation appears to have almost reached the end of the road now – all that remains is to wind up investigations; verify the liquidator's report with a Commissioner's hearing in the Alderney Court; and apply for the formal dissolution of the company.