Monday 9 October 2017

International Man of Mystery

A curiosity indeed.

I did not know this.

I probably should have, and when I looked up the Black Friday case - and it's a doozy - it certainly rang bells. If I played poker, I'm sure the name Isai Scheinberg would have meant something to me. But as it is, it was only last week that I learned that one of our major chess tournaments is sponsored by a man who is wanted in the US, on very serious charges involving very large sums of money.

In fact I've been exceptionally slow on this, because Mr Scheinberg has been sponsoring the tournament, either directly or through his one-time company PokerStars, every year since 2014.

On the run

But if did not know this, a lot of other people probably did. And if they did, they presumably didn't think the charges against Mr Scheinberg were of any importance at all. Nothing in which the chess-watching public might be interested. Nothing that ought to preclude him from sponsoring a chess event.

Which is pretty revealing, as statements of values go.

I wondered what the position was of, co-sponsors of the event last year. Last week I sent a message to their CEO, Erik Allebest
Dear Erik

Hi, My name's Justin Horton and I write the chess blog Lost On Time. I have a question for you.

I notice that in 2016, were co-sponsors of the Isle of Man international with the Scheinberg family. .

At the time, were you aware that Isai Scheinberg was on the run from the US on serious charges relating to financial crime?

All the best

but as of writing, I'm yet to receive a response. So whether didn't know, or didn't care, is something I'm yet to determine.

The same is not true, though, of the local organisation. On Thursday I phoned Alan Ormsby, who has been organiser of the tournament for four years, about Mr Scheinberg. I asked whether he was aware that Mr Scheinberg was on the run from the US on serious financial charges.

Mr Ormsby said - quite properly - that those were my words and not his, but also observed that if you looked up Mr Scheinberg's name on the internet, anybody could see for themselves. This is perfectly true.

I asked Mr Ormsby whether he had been aware since the beginning of Mr Scheinberg's legal status. He replied that the information had been in the public domain since 2012, which is also true. So I asked him whether he considered that Mr Scheinberg was a suitable person to be the sponsor of a major chess tournament.

At that point, Mr Ormsby said he would prefer to bring the conversation to a close.

So he did. I guess there was nothing much he could say in the circumstances.

But perhaps it would have been better to have that conversation a long time ago.



Anonymous said...

I understand Mr Scheinberg is seen as something of a hero in the poker community - a victim of government overreach against online poker.

ejh said...

Insofar as it has any relevance, I am not sure that the values of the entire poker community (or indeed the entire chess community) are necessarily congruent with the values of the community per se, especially in fields relating to the legality of financial transactions, the observation of laws relating to taxation and so on.

Sean Hewitt said...

What crime(s) has he been convicted of?

ejh said...

Same number as Julian Assange.

Anonymous said...

Is that an argument for the prosecution or the defence?

Anonymous said...

I suppose that the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act isn't a law that, once broken, outrages many of us. I think that the settlement made with the Dept. of Justice by Mark Scheinberg, which had a No Admission of Wrongdoing attached to it, essentially renders the issue pretty uninteresting. You can well imagine that an additional "Agreed settlement" will resolve the issue.


ejh said...

That's a view, though it's not apparently so uninteresting to the US legal system that Mr Scheinberg is free to come and go as he pleases.

Anonymous said...

731 million dollars wouldn't interest most people I imagine.

Overall, it's a fair point to bring up, this guy is on the run and one day he will probably have to cough up some money to the US Treasury for his liberty. Since they've gotten rather a lot of wonga already from the family, well, I am not overexcited by the matter. It was nice to be reminded of the situation though!