AIBA: New interim president linked with heroin trade and organised crime

By Dr. Thilo Pachmann & Alexander Theiler[1]

After having been riddled with internal power struggles and finance issues for months, former president Ching Kuo Wu was finally removed and Italy’s Franco Falcinelli appointed AIBA’s interim president (see earlier GSLTR website posts).

Rather unexpectedly, the Uzbek Gafur Rakhimov has now been named AIBA’s interim president at their long awaited Extraordinary Congress held in Dubai. It is said that the Extraordinary Congress, representing all AIBA’s National Member Federations, did not have the opportunity to vote on the decision to appoint the 66-year-old Rakhimov as interim president.

However, it was claimed that he was moved into the role in accordance with the AIBA statutes, following a meeting during the lunch break, as the longest serving vice-president. It is also reported that there was a big round of applause from the delegates representing 109 National Federations, including USA, France, China, Brazil, South Africa and Cuba, following the announcement.

It was only last month that Rakhimov was described by the US Treasury Department as one of his country’s “leading criminals” and “an important person involved in heroin trade”.

He is also suspected of having links to the Thieves-in-law crime group. In the media, he has frequently been named as an Uzbek mafia boss, although he has never been prosecuted for anything. He has also been described as “having moved from extortion and car theft to becoming one of Uzbekistan’s leading criminals.” Rakhimov was also on Interpol’s most wanted list before being removed only last September.

The US Treasury Department Office for Foreign Assets has prohibited Americans “conducting financial or other transactions” with Rakhimov and has also frozen his assets located in the American jurisdiction.

Following the appointment of Rakhimov, AIBA confirmed it has reached an out-of-court settlement ending a legal fight over a critical $10m loan by one of its biggest creditors, the Azeri company, Benkons, dating back to 2011 and relates to the Americas Operation of the World Series of Boxing (WSB). In their joint statement by Rakhimov and former interim president Falcinelli, it is stated that this agreement has halted the possibility of facing bankruptcy, with also a sponsorship forming a significant part of the deal.

Also, Benkons, confirming this settlement, said:

“We had already initiated legal action against AIBA, but we agreed to the AIBA proposal as it is favourable for both parties.”

As reported last December, the IOC has already suspended the latest round of funding to AIBA, due to concerns over the body’s governance and finances and has now stated that the funding will not be reinstated until a satisfactory outcome is reached.

In the wake of Rakhimov’s appointment as AIBA interim president, the IOC, whose executive board was already planning to discuss longstanding problems at AIBA last week, has opened an investigation into AIBA and could block the sport from the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympic Games, due to lingering concerns over AIBA’s finances and governance.

IOC President, Thomas Bach, has stated that the IOC was “extremely worried” about the administration of the sport.

“The IOC reserves the right to review the inclusion of boxing in the programmes of the Youth Olympics 2018 and Tokyo 2020,” he told reporters, according to the Reuters news agency.

President Bach also added that the IOC had not been satisfied with the requested and recently delivered report by AIBA, and that the IOC would break off communications with figures at the body “excluding the ones on a working level necessary to implement the respective IOC decisions”.

In a statement, AIBA said that the decision of the IOC to maintain the financial suspension of AIBA was taken by the IOC despite “AIBA’s fulfilment of the IOC’s request to submit a Progress Report outlining all steps AIBA was asked to take and continues to take to improve its governance.”

AIBA also stated that “this decision is extremely disappointing for AIBA” and that “it hoped the IOC Executive Board would have understood that the processes necessary to implement even more measures require more time and that the positive steps already taken in recent times are evidence of AIBA’s strong efforts and willingness to reform.”

We are intrigued to know how the AIBA saga will continue!

[1] Dr. Thilo Pachmann and Alexander Theiler of Pachmann Attorneys at Law, Zurich, Switzerland. They can be reached by e-mail at ‘thilo.pachmann@pachmannlaw.ch’ and ‘alexander.theiler@pachmannlaw.ch’.