|The two joint chief executives of Austrian betting firm Bwin.com, who were arrested in France on Friday, are scheduled to appear before a judge near Paris today where they are likely to be placed under formal investigation before being released on bail.|
Manfred Bodner and Norbert Teufelberger were detained for questioning by French authorities on Friday over alleged breaches of French gaming laws and were held in custody over the weekend. The pair have yet to be charged with any wrongdoing in a case triggered by complaints from French monopoly operators Francaise des Jeux and Pari Mutel Urbain (PMU).
The move has attracted the attention of the European Commission, which has been investigating the gambling monopolies of several European Union member states, following complaints that national policies discriminate against private-sector operators like Bwin.
Oliver Drewes, a spokesman for the internal market commissioner, Charlie McCreevy, declined to comment specifically on the case but warned, 'You cannot say to Operator A, which happens to be a state monopoly making a lot of money, 'Yes, you can do this,' and then tell Operator B, which is in the private sector, that it cannot do the same thing,' Drewes explained.
Bodner and Teufelberger were arrested on Friday as they prepared to give a news conference outlining a sponsorship deal with French Football Club Monaco. The football club confirmed at the weekend that it would maintain its sponsorship arrangements with the Austrian company.
Shares in the firm remained suspended from trade until clarification of the present situation.
Meanwhile, Gunter Schmid, CEO of Betbull Plc has condemned the arrests by stating, 'The arrest of Manfred Bodner and Norbert Teufelberger is an attempt to intimidate an entire industry. We offer both men and their families our sympathy and support.'