Thursday 22 March 2018

London Olympics: Probe into 'gold medals for sale’ claims

Paul Kelso, Jacquelin Magnay, Anna Adams and Meirion Jones

OLYMPICS boxing officials are to investigate allegations that gold medal bouts at next summer’s London Games could be rigged in a $10million (£6m) corruption operation.

Dr Ching Kuo Wu, the president of the International Amateur Boxing Association, said he would examine the allegations, which he denied, following a BBC2 Newsnight investigation.

The International Olympic Committee is also examining the allegations and will demand an immediate report from AIBA. An IOC spokesman said: “We welcome AIBA’s announcement of an immediate inquiry into these claims and we await the outcome of their investigation. For its part the IOC takes all allegations of corruption very seriously. And we would urge the BBC to make any evidence they have available.”

Dr Wu told Newsnight that he would personally examine the claims: “These allegations, it is the first time I have heard them, and I must add that they are totally untrue and ludicrous because AIBA and WSB [World Series of Boxing] conduct in a very fair, transparent open way. So when I heard about these accusations I must say totally impossible and ridiculous.

“Thanks for informing us about this information, I will immediately conduct an investigation into this because there is a zero-tolerance policy in AIBA. If something happened we will definitely investigate. If this is a true story, we will immediately fire Ivan [Khodabakhsh, a senior AIBA executive]. There is no way we can accept it.”

Newsnight claimed to reveal secret payments of at least $9million from an Azerbaijan source to an AIBA subsidiary, World Series Boxing, and aired allegations that WSB’s chief executive claimed the money was conditional on Azeri fighters winning two gold medals at London 2012.

Newsnight said whistleblowers from inside the boxing organisations came to them with allegations relating to Khodabakhsh, the chief operating officer of WSB.

The whistleblowers told Newsnight that Khodabakhsh told them a secret deal had been done to get funding from Azerbaijan in return for manipulation of the Olympic boxing tournament, guaranteeing gold medals for Azeri fighters.

One told Newsnight: “Ivan boasted to a few of us that there was no need to worry about World Series Boxing having the coin to pay its bills. As long as the Azeris got their medals, WSB would have the cash.”

Newsnight claimed it had received documents showing communications between Khodabakhsh, WSB boss Ho Kim and an Azeri minister about an investment agreement for a $10?million loan. When Newsnight interviewed Khodabakhsh earlier this month and asked him the source of the money he told them: “The money came for WSB America, came from an investment company here based in Switzerland.”

Newsnight said that lawyers for AIBA and WSB had since confirmed to them that though the money was paid through a Swiss company, it did come from Azerbaijan. They denied that it was from the government.

They say that the Azeri Minister for Emergencies introduced a private Azeri investor to WSB and that the minister and his assistant at the ministry acted as the interface between the investor and WSB because he did not speak good English.

Khodabakhsh told Newsnight that claims that there was any deal with Azerbaijan were “an absolute lie”.

“I deny that I have offered anyone two gold medals or have any understanding that anybody else has offered two gold medals to Azerbaijan”. Lawyers for AIBA told the BBC that any such allegation was “preposterous and utterly untrue”.

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