Liam Morgan

It is not every day that you see a mention of weapons of mass destruction in a document about a sporting organisation.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) Inquiry Committee report on the International Boxing Association (AIBA) may be some way short of an explosive exposé regarding the deeply troubled governing body, but it nevertheless contains several intriguing lines.

Some of these are revelatory, while others support and consolidate rumours that have been circulating for some time.

An example comes on page five, when the inquiry panel – whose recommendation that AIBA be suspended and stripped of any involvement in running the Olympic boxing tournament at Tokyo 2020 was accepted by the IOC Executive Board – is outlining an example of poor due diligence from the embattled organisation.

After a Swiss bank closed its account because of the “reputational risk” of being associated with AIBA – a development the IOC was not even aware of until it was revealed by insidethegames in November – AIBA was looking for a new bank to work with.

It seems its search was not particularly extensive. In its report, the Inquiry Committee said AIBA chose API Bank “because it was able to process in the currencies AIBA trades in and because it is a recognised legal trading bank in Serbia”. I am no financial expert but they appear to be fairly obvious traits you might look for.

“Their due diligence did not go beyond this,” the report states.

This would come back to bite AIBA as it turns out API Bank has links to another bank which is accused of facilitating “significant transactions on behalf of the person who was on the sanctions list for activities related to weapons of mass destruction in connection with North Korea” by authorities in the United States.

The conclusions of the committee substantiated rumours and allegations which have existed for some time ©IOC
The conclusions of the committee substantiated rumours and allegations which have existed for some time ©IOC

It is one of a multitude of instances in the report where AIBA has either appeared incapable or unwilling to conduct extensive background checks and scrutiny of people or organisations it has entered into relationships with.

The latest example came when AIBA executive director Tom Virgets issued a gushing response of gratitude to Umar Kremlev – whose name was changed from Lutfuloev, allegedly because of past criminal convictions – for his astounding offer to personally write off AIBA’s debt.

The Inquiry Committee did not have to look hard to discover Kremlev was incapable of financing this sensational proposal alone, leaving the IOC to ponder the same question many of us were asking in the media – where was this money coming from?

Kremlev told an AIBA Extraordinary Executive Committee meeting in Lausanne last weekend that the money was in the possession of the Boxing Federation of Russia, a scarcely believable claim considering some of the richer International Federations (IFs) do not have $16 million (£12.6 million/€14.3 million) casually lying around.

“Background checks on the origin of funds from external parties is part of basic standards of good governance expected to be implemented by Olympic IFs,” the report adds.

The biggest mistake in this regard came with the election of Gafur Rakhimov as President last November, a decision the AIBA membership made despite having full knowledge of his status with the US Treasury Department as “one of Uzbekistan’s leading criminals”.

The committee pinpoints AIBA’s Ethics and Elections Commissions for criticism, claiming neither body “seriously considered his situation taking into account the reputational, legal or financial risk for AIBA and the Olympic Movement”.

Rakhimov’s designation may have “an impact on the relationship between AIBA and the US boxing entities, or more generally US companies or companies with significant presence in the US, as well as US sponsors of AIBA”, the report added.

Even the IOC’s bank, which is not based in the US, refuses to make any payments to AIBA as a result.

Unsurprisingly, the Uzbek was the central character of the report – his name crops up no fewer than 18 times in the 30-page document, 19 of which were appendices – as he is at the very heart of the organisation’s problems.

His concerted power over the Disciplinary, Ethics and Election Commissions, where he can propose individuals to become members and chairpersons, was among the other issues mentioned, along with the fact that, under AIBA’s statutes, he can return as President within 90 days of “stepping aside” from his duties, which he did in March.

“He can recover his authority at any time,” the report warns.

The IOC Executive Board suspended AIBA and stripped it of any involvement in the boxing events at Tokyo 2020 ©Getty Images
The IOC Executive Board suspended AIBA and stripped it of any involvement in the boxing events at Tokyo 2020 ©Getty Images

The Inquiry Committee also cited how he is still listed as AIBA President on the organisation’s website – with the word “inactive” in brackets next to it – and remains in control of the [email protected] email address.

“Considering this situation, the risks to the Olympic Movement linked to Mr Gafur Rahimov’s designation by the US Treasury remain unchanged,” the committee writes.

Rakhimov’s successor, Interim President Mohamed Moustahsane, does not emerge from the report unscathed as the Moroccan’s role in the Rio 2016 scandal, where the judging of Olympic boxing seemingly reached its nadir, is first inherently and then directly highlighted as a concern.

In a section dedicated to AIBA’s “incapacity to renew the AIBA management team, in particular regarding the influence over the refereeing and judging”, the inquiry group refers to a report from the special committee which investigated the officiating at the Games in Rio de Janeiro.

The committee, chaired by now executive director Tom Virgets, said the scandal at Rio 2016 “was the result of the interventions of different actors under the main responsibility of [former executive director Karim Bouzidi], one of them being the chair of the Draw Commission, Mohamed Moustahsane."

Moustahsane also performed the role at Buenos Aires 2018, where the boxing competition had to be overseen by an independent auditor to ensure its integrity.

At the Youth Olympic Games, the report says, “an apparent incident occurred when Swiss Timing received at the last-minute additional option settings for the system-based draw, causing the automated draw system to fail”.

This forced the Draw Commissioner to hand-pick the referees and judges, which “ultimately made again the system more vulnerable”, all of this under the supposedly watchful eye of Moustahsane.

Interim President Mohamed Moustahsane is also criticised in the report ©Getty Images
Interim President Mohamed Moustahsane is also criticised in the report ©Getty Images

The Moroccan’s appointment as Interim President shows AIBA’s preference for promoting, rather than demoting, those officials with direct links to the judging scandal to “critical roles” and typifies the organisation’s clear governance failures.

Among the other concerns raised include how Terry Smith, chair of the AIBA Refereeing and Judging Commission between 2006 and 2014 and who was accused of deliberately misleading the members regarding the seriousness of the IOC’s threat to axe the sport from Tokyo 2020, was placed on the Executive Committee and installed as chairman of the compliance unit.

Osvaldo Bisbal, the head of the American Confederation, was chairman of the Refereeing and Judging Commission at Rio 2016. For many governing bodies, he would have been seen as collateral following his involvement in the Games.

But not AIBA, which recently re-appointed the Argentinian to serve another term in the role.

The persistent allegations regarding integrity of judging and decisions, which stretch back to before the 2004 Olympics in Athens, “show that AIBA was unable to an effective firewall between the professional judges and referees on one hand and the AIBA political leadership and management on the other hand; thereby represented a significant risk for the IOC and the Olympic Movement”, according to the Inquiry Committee.

And how can we forget Franco Falcinelli, a man described in this column as a “u-turn artist” and an official who has “more faces than a town hall clock”, descriptions which the Italian has taken exception to.

The report gives us a reminder that Falcinelli was suspended for trying to solicit support from the membership for Serik Konakbayev, Rakhimov’s challenger in the ill-fated Presidential election, by the Executive Committee but was allowed to stand for re-election as vice-president two months later.

Following an extensive analysis carried out by auditing firm Deloitte, AIBA’s bleak financial outlook comes more into focus in the report.

It reveals how former executive director Ho Kim, thought to have played a key role in the campaign to unseat Ching-Kuo Wu as AIBA President, is still receiving money from the organisation despite a settlement reached last year which was aimed at ending his involvement with the world governing body.

“No basis” for the payments was found by Deloitte, while the Inquiry Committee claim he continues to provide “regular information to the IOC about the management of AIBA".

Aside from heavily reported concerns about an agreement struck between AIBA and Azerbaijani company Benkons, a partnership with Hong Kong’s First Contract International Trade – chaired by Di Wu, whose appointment to the Executive Committee by Rakhimov was cited as another example of a conflict of interest – is the subject of significant unease from the Inquiry Committee.

The committee – featuring Richard Carrion, a man with considerable financial expertise – believes the deal will deprive AIBA of “any future independent revenue, in particular for its own activities provided by the Olympic Charter” and could lead to its debt being significantly increased to around CHF29 million (£22.8 million/$28.9 million/€25.9 million) by June 30, 2021.

It gets worse. One of the conclusions of the report is that, owing to the financial peril faced by AIBA, most money it generates in future, including from the Olympic Games revenue, will “first have to be used to cover existing debts” rather than being pumped back into the development of the sport and its athletes.

“AIBA… might remain financially at risk of insolvency,” the report concludes.

Former AIBA President Gafur Rakhimov and Umar Kremlev are among other central characters to have contributed to AIBA's downfall ©AIBA
Former AIBA President Gafur Rakhimov and Umar Kremlev are among other central characters to have contributed to AIBA's downfall ©AIBA

The four conclusions from the committee, chaired by IOC Executive Board member Nenad Lalović, will not come as a surprise to anyone and merely confirms the presence of issues which have existed for years and under previous Presidents.

Yet it is difficult to escape the view that the IOC has made an example of AIBA.

There are undoubtedly other federations whose problems are worse, and which hardly display the epitome of good governance, but these have so far escaped the wrath of the IOC. For now.

AIBA claims it is the victim of a revenge plot from the IOC for the way it treated CK Wu, a view strengthened by the fact he is largely exonerated by the report, save for a line which asks IOC chief ethics and compliance officer Pâquerette Girard Zappelli to “evaluate any information” on the Taiwanese official which has been made available to the Inquiry Committee.

Perhaps the most fitting line to summarise AIBA is one of the first, which highlights how the group conducted its “own research in the public domain” – suggesting the organisation’s problems were not too difficult to find.

After all, it is self-destruction, rather than mass destruction, which has plunged the future of AIBA into doubt.