|Dutch police serving a European warrant issued by a French judge arrested the Chief Executive Officer of online gambling group Unibet, Petter Nylander, on Monday but the whole affair may soon come to an abrupt end.|
The arrest comes as France is working towards a reasonable rapprochement with the European Commission over its monopolistic policy on online gambling. The Financial Times newspaper reported that the French Government had ordered the case against Nylander dropped but that events had already been set in motion with the warrant having been served.
The warrant was issued on the basis of proceedings issued last year against Unibet by Française Des Jeux, the French lottery monopoly, and PMU, the monopoly that governs betting on horses. The organisations claimed that Unibet was in breach of national laws passed in 1836 and 1891 protecting State-owned monopolies.
The French Government now appears embarrassed by the arrest, which comes as Paris seeks a compromise deal that will position it in compliance with European Union principles.
'It is not a matter between the State and Unibet,' said a spokeswoman for the Budget Ministry of France.
“Française Des Jeux and PMU will be told to drop their complaint.”
The newspaper also reported that the arrest was criticised by Unibet, the European Commission and Swedish politicians, all arguing that Unibet’s operations were legal under European Union law.
“A worrying fact is that the European arrest warrant, an instrument put in place to combat terrorism and organised crime, is now used by the French Government to punish those who fight French protectionism,” said Christofer Fjellner, a Member of the European Parliament for Sweden.
“What will be the next sector to be threatened with French arrests? The French are turning the European arrest warrant into a political tool.”
Nylander will now appear before a judge in a closed hearing in Amsterdam to determine the length of his detention although a European Commission source was reported in the Financial Times as stating instructions have been given to drop the proceedings.