Dutch prosecutors announce they will seek a four-year prison term for former Sheriff Gaming CEO Stijn Flapper and slighter shorter terms for former Sheriff execs and brothers Michel and Maurice Gregoire.
Former Sheriff Gaming bosses Stijn Flapper, Michel Gregoire, and Maurice Gregoire could face prison terms of at least two and a half years each, according to a declaration by Dutch prosecutors at a major trial in Den Bosch. On trial are 18 individuals and 13 companies associated with Sheriff Gaming and its parent entity, Bubble Group. Flapper and the Gregoire brothers head a list of defendants accused of illegal gambling, money laundering, and tax evasion in the prominent “mega-process” trial, which dates back to a series of raids and arrests targeting Sheriff Gaming and its leaders in May of 2013.
Flapper, the former CEO of now-defunct Sheriff, could face four years in prison, while Michel Gregoire and Maurice Gregoire are facing 36- and 30-month jail terms, respectively. The three men appeared in court on Thursday, October 11. The trial is near its conclusion, after what is expected to be a full 24 days of testimony and introduction of evidence.
The Sheriff Gaming gambling operation drew the ire of Dutch authorities after the discovery of seven unlicensed sites owned and operated by the group that were illegally serving the Dutch market, despite warnings from those authorities to Flapper and the Gregoire brothers about those sites’ targeting of Dutch gamblers. Those sites — AmsterdamsCasino, AmsterdamsPoker, JackpotRed, TripleGold, Golden10Casino, Tanzoo, and Fruitluck — were operated from clandestine servers located in Costa Rica, and they disappeared soon after the arrests targeting the Sheriff/Bubble principals.
Accused maintain innocence
Flapper and the Gregoire brothers have maintained their innocence throughout the investigation and trial, offering such reasons and rationalizations as that Dutch authorities allegedly told them the Costa Rica sites weren’t illegal and that the money-laundering part of the scheme was actually orchestrated in large part by Sheriff’s corporate lawyer, Annette Mak, and third-party tax adviser Guus de Leeuw.
According to ED reporter Bart Jan van Rooij, who has live-Tweeted some of the recent proceedings, “The [Netherlands] Public Prosecution Service has filed a disciplinary complaint against lawyer [Mak], but the Dean of the Bar Association is waiting, according to the prosecution, until the criminal case is completed.”
Flapper and the Gregoire brothers have at times gone on the offensive themselves, often giving interviews to Dutch news outlets. Flapper filed a €75 million lawsuit against the Netherlands in early 2017, in part over the disputed legality of the Costa Rica sites. He has claimed that he received a “tolerance letter” regarding the sites, but Flapper declined to publish the letter in its original, unaltered form. Three of the forbidden elements insisted upon by Dutch regulators emerged later through Dutch investigative reports: having a Dutch domain, offering a Dutch-language product, and advertising products to Dutch gamblers. Given site names such as AmsterdamsCasino, the sites’ violative nature seemed obvious.
Massive raids and seizures, crooked software
The sites’ illegality and the massive money-laundering scheme unearthed by the continuing investigation weren’t the only major legal issues. The May 2013 raids resulted in seizures of over 100 bank accounts and 80 separate locations spread across the Netherlands, Germany, Belgium, and Spain. The Spanish real estate, held by the Gregoire brothers, was valued at €10m ($11,568,468; £8,787,065) alone.
All told, the three Sheriff execs were accused of laundering at least €110m ($12,427,707; £96,654,111) in illicit revenue, profiting by some €30m ($34,723,326; £26,356,678) to €50m ($57,904,780; £43,927,796). Dutch tax authorities levied a €13.5m ($15,634,291; £11,863,790) back-tax claim against the operation.
As if all these troubles weren’t enough, a former Sheriff programmer also testified that the games themselves were crooked. The former programmer, whose testimony was rolled into the Dutch investigation, declared that he had been ordered to make sure that major jackpots on the Sheriff/Bubble Group slots software were programmed to never hit. When one such jackpot hit anyway, the programmer attested, Flapper ordered that the jackpot not be paid out.