21st September 2017

Analysis: Diack & Bubka deny corrupt payment for Rio votes

Papa Massata Diack, son of former International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) President Lamine Diack and Sergey Bubka, an International Olympic Committee (IOC) Board member, have denied that a 2009 US$45,000 payment to New Mills Investments is related to any form of corruption. Le Monde reported that the transaction took place on 18 June 2009 and a day earlier, an almost identical amount ($45,003) was transferred from New Mills Investments to Pamodzi Sports Consulting, a company owned by Papa Diack.

International Olympic Committee (IOC) Board member Bubka told InsideTheGames that the legitimate payment – made when he was IAAF Senior Vice President – was connected to the expansion of the Pole Vault Stars competition he used to organise annually in Donetsk. Papa Diack denies all knowledge of the transaction. New Mills Investments is understood to be registered in St. Kitts & Nevis under Valentin Balakhnichev’s name.

Balakhnichev is the former President of the Russian Athletics Federation (RusAF) and IAAF Treasurer, whom the IAAF banned for life on 7 January 2016 for extorting money from athletes in return for the covering up of positive doping tests. The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) dismissed appeals from Balakhnichev & Papa Diack against their life bans exactly one month ago.

Papa Diack compared the media campaign against him to McCarthyism. “It is total nonsense”, he said. “It looks as if the French prosecutors want to do their investigation via media articles. The whole investigation is losing credibility because of this. If you want to get an official answer, which is serious and documented, you must do it formally. For example, by using lawyers and prosecutors. You can’t just throw an article to the media and expect people to respond to you.”

Earlier this month, an investigation by prosecutors from five countries exposed bribes paid in return for votes to appoint the host of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, bribes connected to the hiring of contractors as well as fictitious service contracts and personal expenses connected to the Games. The investigation found that former governor of Rio de Janeiro, Sergio Cabral, operated in concert with businessman Arthur César de Menezes Soares Filho (known as ‘King Arthur’) to pay US$2 million to Lamine Diack in return for his vote to appoint Rio as 2016 Olympic host. Cabral was jailed for 14 years in June this year, after accusations that he ran a criminal organisation and accepted bribes.

Brazil’s Federal Public Ministry (MPF) said that the $2 million came from Matlock Capital Group, a company owned by ‘King Arthur’ based in the British Virgin Islands. ‘He did nothing more than pass on the fee that would Sergio Cabral would pay directly to the Senegalese in exchange for votes to choose the host city of the 2016 Olympics’, read a statement. The MPF alleges that the payment to Lamine Diack was arranged through Papa Massata Diack.

However Papa Diack questions why Bubka and Balakhnichev would get involved, if this is accurate. “What is the relevance of Mr Sergey Bubka of the Ukraine and Mr Valentin Balakhnichev of Russia getting involved with the bids of Chicago, Madrid, Tokyo and Rio?”, he asks. “I don’t see the reason”.

“I have had nothing to do with Mr. Sergey Bubka”, states Papa Diack. He also points out that Balakhnichev was an IAAF Council member in 2009, when the alleged payment was made, and was not appointed IAAF Treasurer until 2011. Balakhnichev has never been an IOC Member, so could not have participated in the vote to appoint Rio as host of the 2016 Olympics at the 121st IOC Session in Copenhagen, 1-9 October 2009.

This is true, but Balakhnichev had connections to IOC Members who could vote. He had been a member of the Executive Committee of the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) since 1995, whose Honorary President from 2001 was voting IOC Member Vitaly Smirnov. An IOC Candidate City Briefing in Lausanne is understood to have taken place on June 18, the day on which Bubka is alleged to have made the payment through New Mills to Balakhnichev.

French prosecutors have expanded the remit of their investigation on numerous occasions. In December 2015, they widened their scope to include the awarding of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. In March 2016, their remit was again widened to include awarding of the Rio 2016 Olympics; to include the award of the the 2021 World Athletics Championships to Eugene, Oregon; to include allegations of corruption in connection to the 2006 IAAF Athletics World Cup; allegations concerning the award of the 2017 World Athletics Championships to London and the 2019 edition to Doha.

Papa Diack’s frustration at this is palpable. “Initially, they say that they are investigating the period from 2011 until 2015, because that is what the WADA Reports cover”, he says. “Now, WADA and the French investigators have realised that they have nothing on the doping corruption in Russia. Nothing to take to prosecution in a court. Now they are trying to divert attention by trying to talk about the Olympics. How can WADA investigate an Olympic Games or World Championship bid or marketing contracts? Does the World Anti-Doping Agency have the right to do this?”

“They say that the Ukrainian and the Russian have paid money to me through my offshore account – where is that money?”, he argues. “The French prosecutors say that I am in the middle of it and I receive payments from the Russian and the Ukrainian. It’s bullshit. Where is the money? Show me the evidence!”

The IAAF’s Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU) said that it would investigate the allegations. ‘The Unit will seek further information in relation to this matter in accordance with its functions under the Rules’, wrote an AIU spokesperson in an email. ‘In order to protect the integrity of its ongoing work and cases, the AIU will be making no further comment at this time’.

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