A criminal trial which could ultimately expose corruption surrounding the awarding of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, 2022 Qatar World Cup, doping cover-ups in Russia and Russian attempts to influence foreign elections will start in Paris on Monday with some huge and respected names on the International Olympic Committee sweating to see if they are named in court.
Lamine Diack, who preceded Lord Coe as president of the IAAF and was once described by Coe as the ‘spiritual leader of our sport’, faces the prospect of spending the rest of his life in a French prison as he goes on trial.
Though this initial phase will deal with an alleged cover-up of Russian positive doping tests in 2012 by Diack, later this year more complex allegations will be aired about payments made to companies connected to him to secure the Olympics for Toyko and the 2019 World Athletics Championships for Doha. The award of the 2022 World Cup to Qatar may even be involved.
Lamine Diack, 86, faces a charge of corruption at the trial in Paris, which starts on Monday
Diack, 86, who faces 10 years in jail if found guilty, has spent more than four years under house arrest in Paris. He says he is innocent but could embarrass leading names in sports administration if he speaks out.
‘I will finally be able to explain myself,’ Diack told Jeune Afrique in his only interview. ‘My state of health is no longer the best,’ he added, complaining that after his arrest in France in 2015 he has been denied access to medical treatment in his former home of Monaco. ‘I’m stuck here,’ he said. ‘The treatment I receive is unfair. I was French for 27 years, I held the highest office and I did a lot for world sport.’
Diack not only faces the rest of his life in jail but financial ruin if found guilty. The Mail on Sunday understands that World Athletics, the renamed IAAF, will pursue its former president and his co-defendants for the loss of earnings suffered by their action, which directly led sponsors adidas and Nestle to pull out of the sport. World Athletics president Coe spoke to police in the course of the investigation but is not required as a witness.
Investigating judge Renaud Van Ruymbeke alleges that Diack and his son, Papa, were at the centre of a vast system of corruption aimed at covering up Russian doping in exchange for bribes.
Former IAAF president faces the prospect of spending 10 years in a French prison
This phase of proceedings has six defendants on trial but only three will appear in the dock: Diack and Gabriel Dolle, the IAAF’s former head of anti-doping, who faces a charge of corruption, and Habib Cisse, former legal advisor to the IAAF, who is accused of complicity in corruption. Papa Diack, charged with corruption, money laundering, concealment and breach of trust, has fled to Senegal and is refusing to return. Also on trial are former president of the Russian Athletics Federation Valentin Balakhnichev (corruption and money laundering) and Russia’s former head athletics coach Alexei Melnikov (corruption) who have not been extradited.
The most well-publicised of the cover-ups being covered this week involves Liliya Shobukhova, the 2010 London Marathon winner, later disqualified for doping. In 2015, an IAAF ethics commission investigation revealed how her husband, Igor, said he had organised for €450,000 to be paid to Melnikov so his wife’s sanction would be covered up, letting her compete at London 2012. Melnikov disputes this.
The investigation showed that, though the ruse let Shobukhova compete, she was later sanctioned, leading the couple to demand their money back. At that stage, €300,000 was paid to them by a mysterious Singapore company, Black Tidings. Papa Diack’s own consultancy firm, PMD Consulting, had its domain name, pmdconsulting.com, registered at the same address.
Lord Coe once described his predecessor Diack as the ‘spiritual leader of our sport'
Lamine Diack is set to accept a full cross-examination, so IOC watchers will hang on every word, curious to see what he reveals.
His interview with Jeune Afrique suggests he will argue that he didn’t so much cover up the tests as delay them, as he couldn’t risk the fallout of negative publicity at the London 2012 Olympics and the 2013 World Athletics Championships in Moscow, which was heavily bankrolled by Russian sponsors.
The Mail on Sunday was the first paper to reveal the Moscow cover-up shortly before the event began.
‘It was necessary to rectify the accounts,’ Lamine Diack told Jeune Afrique. ‘As president, one of my missions was to maintain the financial health of our institution. We had to try to draw a large windfall of cash from sponsors. We couldn’t afford to disrupt the success of these two events. We never covered up their cases. We just asked for time to check their tests and make sure that, if there were sanctions, they take effect after these competitions.’ Van Ruymbeke says the real reason for the delay was Russian bribes used to finance Diack’s political activities in Senegal.
But it’s the rest of the case later in the year which could blow apart the sporting world, covering a network of alleged corruption around events including the Tokyo Olympics and the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
Black Tidings, the firm linked to Papa Diack, had few cash inflows, but received $2million from Tokyo 2020. Payments were split in two, the first $1m in July 2013, two months before the IOC would vote on who would host the Games. French police have emails of Papa urging his father that ‘we have to do more’ before the vote. Tokyo was successful and a month later a further payment of $1m was paid from Tokyo 2020 to Black Tidings.
Officially the payments were for studies, one on how Tokyo could win and one after the contest to assess who had voted for them. The studies are said to be laughably superficial for $2m worth of work. The Diacks have denied allegations that it was a payment to influence votes.
The most well-publicised of the cover-ups being covered this week involves Liliya Shobukhova
Then, last June, the net widened and French police questioned Michel Platini, the ex-UEFA president who resigned after being unable to adequately explain a £1.4m bonus received from FIFA president Sepp Blatter. Platini was asked about the infamous lunch which took place between him, Nicolas Sarkozy, then President of France, and the Emir of Qatar, Sheik Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, at the Elysee Palace in November 2010. It took place nine days before Platini, as a FIFA executive committee member, voted for the 2022 World Cup to take place in Qatar. He says the lunch played no part and that he had no idea Sheik Tamim, then Crown Prince of Qatar, would be there. Platini was questioned but not charged. He was a witness helping police with inquiries. His lawyer said his client has nothing to hide and has no part in a wider sports corruption investigation by French police.
In 2011, six months after the lunch, Paris Saint-Germain were bought by Qatar Sports Investments. And while investigating Russian doping, French police came across two payments from Oryx QSI, a company related to the Qatar firm, worth $3.5m in 2011 to Pamodzi, a company set up by Papa Diack. Coincidentally this payment came just before the IAAF, headed then by Lamine Diack, would decide between Doha and London for the 2017 World Athletics Championships. Doha lost that race, but in 2014 won the right to host the 2019 championships.
That has led to Nasser Al-Khelaifi, the president of PSG and a member of UEFA’s executive committee and chairman of beIN Sports, being charged with corruption. He denies all wrongdoing.
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