News 5th May 2020

Documents allege financial mismanagement at LEN

Documents handed to prosecutors in Italy and Switzerland allege that the European swimming federation (LEN) made payments to three Italian companies for services that were never provided, reports the Frankfurter Allgemeine and Swimming World. LEN President Paolo Barelli, Secretary General David Sparkes and Treasurer Tamás Gyárfás reportedly signed a 2016 contract with Elevan, which Italy’s Company Register reveals is an insurance company registered in Rome.  

This first agreement is understood to offer Elevan commission of 5% or 6% commission, dependant on contract length, on any increase in the value of LEN’s broadcasting contract. It is also alleged that Elevan also received fees from LEN in 2016 and 2017 for ‘identification and assistance activity’ related to a LEN sponsorship deal with UnipolSai, another insurance company. 

LEN reportedly renewed its contract with the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) in 2015, before the Elevan contract was allegedly signed. The EBU doesn’t negotiate rights deals through third parties. 

The documents reportedly involve email correspondence between former LEN President Bartolo Consolo and Vice Presidents Sven van Holst and Christa Thiel questioning the involvement of Elevan. A Letter to the Ethics Panel of the international swimming federation (FINA) from six LEN Bureau members is understood to outline that Elevan was used as part of the negotiation of LEN’s broadcasting contracts without their knowledge.

Two other property companies, CIR AUR and Eurozona, were also paid for providing services to LEN, the documents allege. The majority shareholding in CIR AUR is understood to be owned by Barelli.

Consolo is understood to have presented the above evidence to LEN during December last year. It is understood that Barelli argued that the payments to  CIR AUR were a refund to him, after he supported LEN during financial difficulties. The letter to the FINA Ethics Panel followed his defence.

‘LEN (Ligue Européenne de Natation) totally rejects the allegations, which have appeared in some media reports’, read a statement. ‘Following various briefings and the receipt of the Audit Report, the LEN Bureau unanimously agrees that there is no substance to the allegations raised. LEN maintains that all its bodies have always respected a conduct in line with the principles of good governance and transparency.’

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