16th January 2020

Senegal denies responsibility for delay in Diack trial

Malik Sall, Senegal’s Minister of Justice, has denied that a delay in the trial of Lamine Diack, former President of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF – now World Athletics), was due to late receipt of information from the African country. Papa Massata Diack, Lamine’s son, argues that details from a 2016 hearing as well as from 16 hours of replies to questions posed last year were sent to France in November 2019.

French prosecutors charged Diack with establishing a criminal organisation involved in corruption, money laundering and embezzlement, reported The Guardian. The newspaper said prosecutors would argue that 23 Russians had paid between €100,000 and €600,000 to former IAAF figures in order to delay doping charges so that they could compete at the London 2012 Olympics and Moscow 2013 IAAF World Championships. 

Vitaly Mutko

It is understood that prosecutors would argue that such a ‘full protection’ scheme was the suggestion of Lamine Diack at a November 2011 meeting with Vitaly Mutko, Russia’s former Minister of Sport who is now Deputy Prime Minister. Papa Massata Diack has previously confirmed that a 2011 meeting took place between his father and Mutko, where 23 Russian adverse analytical findings (AAFs), discovered through the Athlete Biological Passport (ABP) scheme, were discussed.

Papa said that at the time, his father told him that unless the 23 cases involved ‘allegations of substance’, they would not publicised before London 2012, because the IAAF was due a US$45 million revenue share from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in connection to the Games. He said that at the later request of Valentin Balakhnichev, former President of the Russian Athletics Federation (RusAF) and IAAF Treasurer, it was decided to further delay the announcement of the AAFs until after Moscow 2013, in order to avoid jeopardising negotiations with sponsor VTB Bank.

Valentin Balakhnichev

Charges against Lamine Diack were to be heard from 13 to 22 January in Paris, however the trial has now been postponed until 3 June. Sall told Senegal’s Vox Pop (PDF below) that Papa Massata Diack had been subject to a hearing requested by Parisian prosecutors in 2016, which had resulted in him being placed under judicial control – meaning he is not allowed to leave the country.

“We forwarded the entire file through the French Embassy”, Sall told the Senegalese publication. “There was a delay somewhere, but it was not at our level. I personally signed the letter transmitting the file addressed to my colleague, the Minister of Justice in France, and did so three months ago.”

Papa Massata Diack with current World Athletics President Sebastian Coe…

Papa Massata Diack supported the assertion that France’s request for his 2016 hearing documents and answers to new questions came through late last year. ‘I was interviewed between 5 and 7 November 2019 for 16 hours in total’, he wrote in an email. ‘The file came late to Senegal because French judges did not send a complete official file – not a photocopy. The Judge, Renaud van Ruymbeke, was acting with lack of respect for the Senegalese judicial system. My answers were sent on 12 November from the [Senegalese] Ministry. I think the French prosecutors are playing games, because they discovered mistakes in their procedures.’

Six men are due to appear to answer various corruption charges at the June trial. They are Lamine Diack; Gabriel Dollé (former Director of the IAAF’s Anti-Doping Department); Habib Cissé (former Legal Advisor to Lamine, sanctioned with a life ban last year); Papa Massata Diack (Lamine’s son & former IAAF Marketing Consultant); Balakhnichev; and Alexei Melnikov (a senior RusAF coach). Papa Massata Diack remains under judicial control in Senegal, which is understood to mean he cannot be extradited for trial. Balakhnichev and Melnikov remain in Russia, and are understood to deny the charges against them.

Papa Massata Diack has always denied charges that his father solicited €1.5 million from Balakhnichev to finance a Senegalese political campaign in return for covering up Russian doping cases. In 2015, it was reported that his father had admitted to French prosecutors that he solicited the money from Balakhnichev, but Papa Massata Diack suggested his father may have been pressured into the admission, and denied his own involvement.

“If my father said that, then I challenge that statement”, he told The Sports Integrity Initiative in 2017. “He is 82 years old and had been detained for 36 hours. Because he knows that at no point in time have I been party to a discussion with Mr. Balakhnichev.”

Papa Massata Diack maintains that French prosecutors have no jurisdiction over the alleged offences committed by his father, as the IAAF is headquartered in Moscow and the alleged offences took place in Russia, Turkey, Singapore, Monaco, and Senegal. He also told The Guardian that his father’s arrest could be considered as a violation of the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, which grants holders of a diplomatic passport certain immunities from prosecution. As his father was arrested holding such a passport, Papa Massata Diack argues that the French authorities should have consulted the Embassy of Senegal in Paris before triggering a police investigation.

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