An investigation in to the Panama Papers by the Guardian (UK) and Süddeutsche Zeitung (Germany) has brought to light evidence supporting long-alleged charges of corruption in the World Chess Federation’s leadership. The organization, also known by its French acronym, FIDE, has been led since 1995 by Kirsan Ilyumzhinov. The man is a former president of the Russian republic of Kalmykia, famously claimed to have been kidnapped by aliens, and is currently a subject of sanctions by the United States for alleged support of the Syrian government.
According to the Guardian, the records of Panamanian firm Mossack Fonseca reveal a financial connection between Ilyumzhinov and two firms that have had contracts with FIDE to run high-level tournaments, including the World Chess Championship, during his term. The first, Global Chess BV, was set up by Ilyumzhinov in 2006 and was granted global commercial rights to all FIDE events in 2007. Later that year, Ilyumzhinov sold Global Chess to Russian-Israeli businessman David Kaplan, who kept his position private by designating his son as director. Kaplan was then appointed by Ilyumzhinov to head a new FIDE office in Moscow and was given an executive position in charge of development.
In 2012, those FIDE commercial rights were given to (and remain with) another firm, Agon Limited. According to the Guardian, a memorandum from that year “suggested that Ilyumzhinov was to be a hidden beneficiary of Agon, owning a secret 51% stake.” For his part, Ilyumzhinov claims that document was never put in to action.
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