Leading UK gambling operator, GVC Holdings, has expressed its surprise at the fact that the UK’s tax body is set to widen its inquiry into the corporate conduct of GVC’s former Turkish gambling unit.
It said that HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) had expanded its initial probe into suppliers that were used by GVC when operating in Turkey to include other firms in the GVC group. GVC sold its Turkish business back in December 2017, and says that it is fully co-operating with the investigation.
GVC say that they were informed of the development on Monday, but so far had not been informed of which of its subsidiaries were under investigation. The company, which operates well known UK brands Coral and Ladbrokes, said that they were surprised by the HMRC decision to extend their investigation and that they were disappointed by the lack of clarity provided by the tax body:
“HMRC has not yet provided details of the nature of the historic conduct it is investigating, with the exception of a reference to section 7 Bribery Act 2010, nor has it clarified which part of the GVC group is under investigation.”
Section 7 focuses on commercial organisations that can be found guilty if a person associated with that company is found to have bribed another person to obtain or retain business, or to obtain or retain an advantage in the conduct of its business.
So far HMRC have declined to comment on the investigation, though it has been revealed by the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) that they are assisting HMRC.
Last year, in July, GVC was forced to deny reports that it was still receiving financial benefits from its Turkish subsidiary, stressing that it no longer had ties with the business. GVC have reiterated their claim that following the disposal of the Turkish-facing business, they had no further link with that market and have denied suggestions that they had continued to profit through it.
The HMRC investigation is likely to continue for some time, given the size of the GVC Group and the lack of public information on how targeted the investigation is likely to be.
This decision by HMRC to widen their investigation comes only a week after Kenneth Alexander stated that he was stepping down as the Group’s Chief Executive. Alexander took over in 2007 and was in charge of the Group as they acquired Ladbrokes, Coral and Bwin.