The Alderney Gambling Control Commission’s report that the US Department of Justice had seized $331 million from Full Tilt Poker over almost four years is false. Subject: Poker believes that the real number is about $159 million.1 Approximately $35-$45 million was seized from FTP on April 15th.
Following ten days of hearings and deliberation, on September 29, the Alderney Gaming Control Commission revoked three of the four licenses belonging to Full Tilt Poker. In a detailed determination notice attached to the revocation announcement, the AGCC made this incorrect statement:
The individual seizures made by the Department of Justice during the period 28th June 2007 to 20th June 2011… amount to a cumulative total of approximately $331 million US Dollars.
This number is much higher than the $115 million that Full Tilt reported was seized in the two years before Black Friday combined with the $60 million that the DOJ reported was in Full Tilt’s bank accounts on March 31st (about $10 million of which went to April 1st distribution payments to shareholders).
The actual total amount of money seized by the DOJ as recorded by FTP in its internal accounting for that four year period amounted to $158,793,000, much less than the $331 million that the AGCC tribunal reported. Assuming that this number and Full Tilt’s estimate of $115 million for the pre-Black Friday total are both correct, this leaves about $35-45 million seized on Black Friday itself.2 This range agrees with numbers quoted by many different Subject: Poker sources, and we believe it to be correct.
The AGCC tribunal stated that the false $331 million figure came from “Document JS21(I),” one of many referenced attachments that were not actually included in the publicly available documents. Subject: Poker and other sources familiar with this document have confirmed that JS21(I) contains blatantly false information. In fact, it labels legal disputes with previous processors as seizures, including the $42 million that Full Tilt says was stolen by Daniel Tzvetkoff.3 In addition, the document labels the $128 million e-check shortfall as a DOJ seizure, which of course is also not true, although in this document it is listed $131 million.4 The $331 million “seized” figure could also be otherwise inflated, as the document does indeed include many other errors that we were able to identify.
Subject: Poker has heard conflicting reports about who actually created document JS21(I). Sources at Full Tilt Poker say that Alderney created the document. Other sources have said that AGCC specifically identified JS21(I) as a Full Tilt document, though Alderney refused to respond to this question to us directly. It is also possible that AGCC’s “chartered accountants,” Dixon Wilson, created the document.5 The determination notice includes the following ambiguous statement in paragraph 23:
According to the evidence before it, document JS21(I) was produced by [AGCC Executive Director André Wilsenach] from information supplied by FTP during the course of the examination of their financial position by Dixon Wilson.
The AGCC refused to comment about this issue on the record despite numerous requests. On at least six different occasions over a period of two weeks, Subject: Poker attempted to contact the AGCC Executive Director and author of the September 29th media release, André Wilsenach, about their incorrect figure. E-mails went unanswered, and Wilsenach refused to answer telephone calls. In each attempt to contact Wilsenach, this reporter explicitly stated that Subject: Poker was aware of the misrepresentation and was looking for his clarification. Wilsenach did get back to us when we told him that we were publishing, but only to say to speak to another AGCC executive, who then refused to comment. To our knowledge, although Wilsenach has given numerous interviews since the revocation, at no time has he agreed to answer any questions regarding the validity of the report.
We also made numerous attempts to contact other AGCC employees and representatives. Alderney executive commissioners would not comment on the notice since it was written by a tribunal of two AGCC non-executive commissioners, Isabel Picornell and Jeremy Thompson.6 We were unable to get in contact with the tribunal. Other Alderney employees and representatives simply did not respond to our repeated inquiries. As a result, we were unable to obtain a response from the AGCC about the notice. And, in spite of the fact that we repeatedly informed Alderney of the misinformation, they released no correction.
Although the correct value of the seizures themselves would likely not have changed Alderney’s decision to revoke Full Tilt’s licenses, the incorrect figure distorted the story of where players’ funds went. This gave players, many of whom had recently read the DOJ’s statement mentioning the possibility of remission, the false hope that the DOJ had seized enough money to compensate everyone. In fact, the amount of money that the DOJ seized over the course of years is roughly half of the amount that Full Tilt owes to its customers, and much of this money was already disbursed long ago by SDNY or other jurisdictions.
Subject: Poker will continue following this story, and in particular, we will report if Alderney decides to correct the mistake.
Update at publish time
Immediately before we published this article, after we informed them that we would be publishing, Alderney posted a correction on their website after three weeks of e-mails and phone calls asking them to clarify:
AGCC wishes to correct and clarify an erroneous statement contained in the Commission tribunal’s published determination notice of the hearing into Full Tilt, which includes the statement:‐ “the individual seizures made by the Department of Justice during the period 28th June 2007 to 20th June 2011, which amount to a cumulative total of approximately $331 million US Dollars.” The underlying evidence in the hearing clearly demonstrated that $331 million was the total of funds unavailable to Full Tilt, of which DOJ seizures formed only a part. The mis‐statement is thus not of significance in the Commission’s assessment of the matter.
They still refuse to speak with us on the record about this situation or to respond to any of our relevant questions.
- We came to this conclusion partly based on the same documents that led the AGCC to the incorrect $331 million figure. ↩
- Seizures prior to April 2009 were relatively small and likely amounted to less than $5 million. ↩
- Tzvetkoff headed the payment processing company Intabill. He is the now infamous Australian payment processor who, together with associate companies, processed for all three of the major poker companies operating in the USA before Black Friday. In 2009, Full Tilt filed a lawsuit in Australia to try to retrieve $42 million that FTP claimed Tzvetkoff stole from the poker site, and that lawsuit is still pending. After the reported theft, Tzvetkoff and Full Tilt stopped working together. Shortly thereafter, someone told the US DOJ that Tzvetkoff would be in Las Vegas, and he was arrested and criminally charged in 2010. He was later moved to New York, into the custody of the SDNY, where he is reportedly out of jail and cooperating in the investigation that led to Black Friday. ↩
- The $128 million shortfall was caused by Full Tilt’s decision to credit players’ Full Tilt accounts for echecks without a payment processor in place to debit their bank accounts. Of the $128 million, $9 million is believed to be collectible directly from player account balances. Both these numbers were released in open court during the Todd Terry class action lawsuit, and Full Tilt released a press release reconfirming the $128 million figure. It’s not surprising that Alderney has a slightly different number because of the complexities of this issue. ↩
- Dixon Wilson also refused to comment. ↩
- According to AGCC sources, the tribunal consists of two non-executive commissioners who were not affiliated in any way with the course of the investigation into Full Tilt Poker. They were to act as objective judicial entities to decide the hearing based on evidence presented. The evidence was presented by the Wilsenach, including testimony by the auditors presenting their reports, presumably including testimony about the above figures. Other AGCC executive personel testified as to the validity of the incorrect documents as well. ↩