On 22nd April 2013 the Disciplinary Panel of the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) held an enquiry involving Michael Turl, who is now an unlicensed individual but was formerly a registered owner.
Michael Turl had been charged with a breach of Rule (A)41.2 in that he conspired with Neil Clement and/or other persons to commit a corrupt or fraudulent practice. A link to the full notice of charges is included in the Notes to Editors.
This formed part of a wider investigation in which charges are being brought against licensed jockey Eddie Ahern and five other individuals. This hearing is scheduled to begin on 29th April and last for five days. However, Mr Turl entered a guilty plea on a factual basis which was accepted by the BHA. As such his case was heard separately.
There follows the Disciplinary Panel's findings:
1. Mr Michael Turl is a businessman. He has known Mr Neil Clement for many years. He was alleged by the BHA to be in breach of Rule (A)41.2, essentially because his account with Betfair was used to place a lay bet against STONEACRE GARETH (IRE) which risked £40,000 to win £8308. In interview, he told the BHA that the bet was placed as a result of a tip passed to him in a pub or at a cricket club, and that it was placed by a friend who lived abroad. He did not name the person in the interview.
2. Shortly after he was charged with a breach of the Rules, his solicitors indicated to the BHA that Mr Turl might be prepared to admit a breach, and thereafter the BHA and Mr Turl followed the plea-bargaining procedure set out in Schedule (A)10 to the Rules. On 8 March 2013, Mr Turl set out in a document the factual basis upon which he was prepared to admit a breach. On 20 March 2013, the BHA indicated to Mr Turl's solicitors that the BHA was prepared to accept that penalty should be determined upon the basis put forward by Mr Turl.
3. A hearing was held on 22 April 2013, at which the Panel was asked to decide the penalty that would be imposed for the breach. The Panel first determined from the papers available for the hearing whether it felt it was appropriate to proceed on the factual basis outlined by Mr Turl and accepted by the BHA. The Panel did feel that this was an acceptable course. The question of penalty was therefore assessed upon the basis set out by Mr Turl, subject to some further questions which the Panel raised itself.
4. Mr Turl had known Mr Clement for many years. They were friends and shared an interest in horse racing. Mr Clement has owned horses in the past. Each has occasionally placed a bet on behalf of the other. There was no formal arrangement for repayment nor for the sharing of any win, but such was their friendship that "prompt repayment and some recompense went without saying".
5. Mr Turl transferred £40,000 of his own money into his Betfair account, which Mr Clement had asked to be used. All of this was risked in the win market to lay STONEACRE GARETH (IRE), winning £8308. The bet was undoubtedly extraordinary for the Mr Turl account, being 20 times larger than the next largest risk taken. The bets were physically placed by Mr Clement, who was able to access Mr Turl's Betfair account remotely.
6. Mr Turl accepted that the circumstances of the placing of the lay bet revealed a corrupt intention on the part of Mr Clement, and he was himself aware that there was good reason to believe that the horse would not run to form. In the light of that awareness and the facilities which he provided to Mr Clement to seek to profit from Mr Clement's inside information, he recognised and accepted that he was in breach of Rule (A)41.2.
7. He further explained that his evasiveness in his interview of 14 July 2012 (when he refused to name the person who had placed this large bet through his account), was because he did not consider it to be appropriate to discuss third parties.
8. The Guide to Procedures and Penalties 2013 provides a penalty range of 6 months to 10 years disqualification or exclusion, with a recommended entry point of 3 years. As Mr Turl’s registration as an owner remained in force at the time of the STONEACRE GARETH (IRE) race, disqualification was the correct form of penalty here.
9. Before considering what reduction of penalty might be appropriate to reflect the admission of breach by Mr Turl, the Panel first determined what the offence itself required. As there was no suggestion that STONEACRE GARETH (IRE) was given a stopping ride, or that its rider might have been prepared to do so, the Panel treated this 3 year recommendation as its starting point. While the size of the bet in question was large, and Mr Turl made the case worse by evasive behaviour at interview, the Panel did accept a number of points made in mitigation by Miss Kristina Montgomery QC on Mr Turl’s behalf. This was an isolated incident on Mr Turl’s part; financial gain by him was not at the heart of his involvement, but rather this was a most unwise promotion of his friendship with Mr Clement. So the conclusion was that a 3 year disqualification was called for.
10. The Panel then applied the discount which the Guide says is to be given where there has been, as here, a prompt recognition of guilt. This is a discount of “up to a third”. The Panel was prepared to act on this basis, subject to the addition of a fine in this case of £10,000, to mark the general need, especially for people of means, to ensure that they do not become engaged in assisting corrupt betting. Even if, as Miss Montgomery told the Panel, Mr Turl did not keep the benefit of the corrupt bets, a financial penalty was still necessary here.
11. So the Panel imposed a disqualification of 24 months with immediate effect from Monday 22 April 2013 until 21 April 2015 inclusive and a fine of £10,000.