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Indian gaming czar in probe tussle

Dikshit's firm is now in trouble with the US coming down on founders of online gambling cos, writes Vijay Dutt.

india Updated: Jan 23, 2007 03:54 IST
Vijay Dutt
Vijay Dutt

He was hailed as a wizard, who at the age of 34 had been as the third wealthiest Asian in Britain in 2005. Anurag Dikshit's assets of £3.3 billion (Rs 28,000 crore) put him right behind Lakshmi Mittal and the Hinduja Brothers, and well ahead of other United Kingdom based Indian billionaires like Anil Agarwal or Jet Airways owner Naresh Goyal. He was said to be the youngest billionaire in all of England.

A developmental engineer turned online gambling mogul, he owned 32 per cent of the Internet casino outfit PartyGaming floated on the London Stock market in 2005. But his company is now in deep trouble with the United States authorities coming down on founders of online gambling companies. London bankers are far from happy. The overwhelming sentiment is that the US Department of Justice wants to recover the fortunes made by the industry's founders and senior executives through fines and asset seizures.

There is annoyance over the order asking the City's largest banks, accounting firms and law firms to hand over documents relating to companies like PartyGaming, 888 and Empire Online. A specialist lawyer was quoted saying, "This means that the US will impose its jurisdiction, retroactively, on this side of the Atlantic. This is a disgrace.”

Unfortunately, for Dikshit, he was the single-largest beneficiary from PartyGaming. He took out £432 million when the company was floated. Since its June 2005 listing, PartyGaming's four founders have cashed in more than £1.2 billion.

Sources said that investment banks, accountants and law firms were providing details of individuals' ownership, involvement and proceeds so that the US authorities have documentary evidence to offer in court. Others in the net include DKW, bookrunner to the PartyGaming float, HSBC, 888's bookrunner, BDO Stoy Hayward, Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank and Investec.

Dikshit, a computer science and engineering graduate from the Indian Institute of Technology in New Delhi has worked for CMC, Websci, and AT&T. When Ruth Parasol launched Starluck Casino on the Internet in 1997, Dikshit joined it and wrote the company's betting software.

The problem right from the start was that majority of customers lived in America, where online gambling is illegal. So the solution was not to operate on US soil or use its servers. Employees were based in Gibraltar --where Dikshit too has a home -- as well as India, England, and the Caribbean. In May 2006 Dikshit stepped down from PartyGaming's board of directors to develop new products as head of the company's research and special projects.

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First Published: Jan 23, 2007 03:54 IST