Is Kirsan Ilyumzhinov on his way out as president of FIDE (the World Chess Federation)? According to the organization’s website, he resigned Sunday at FIDE’s board meeting in Athens. But this man who consorts with dictators, claims to have been abducted by aliens, believes that aliens are the source of Chess on Earth, and is the subject of sanctions by the U.S. government for providing support to the Assad regime in Syria claims such assertions are false.

Ilyumzhinov does admit that he offered—unofficially, in discussions after the close of the meeting—to submit his resignation if necessary but has also since published an open letter to FIDE’s board stating that he never did resign, nor does he intend to.

Many would not be sad to see him go. There have been longstanding accusations of corruption. Nor has he actually been in charge of FIDE’s day-to-day operations recently, having stepped out of that role since the imposition of the sanctions. Still, Ilyumzhinov did soundly defeat democracy activist and former World Chess Champion Garry Kasparov in the last election for the FIDE presidency (an accomplishment commonly believed to have been achieved with the support of Russia’s President Putin). And the idea that he has lost the support of the national federations would come as a shocker.

FIDE’s Executive Director Nigel Freeman states that an Extraordinary Presidential Board meeting will take place April 10th to discuss the situation. But don’t expect this situation to remain calm until then!

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Panama Papers and Chess Corruption

Kirsan_IlyumzhinovAn 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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Kirsan_IlyumzhinovFinding himself the subject of sanctions by the United States for alleged support of the government in Syria, Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, President of FIDE, made the surprise move this week of relinquishing most of his authority to his deputy, Georgios Makropoulos.

According to an announcement, however, by the World Chess Federation, Mr. Ilyumzhinov has withdrawn from all “legal, financial and business operations” only on a temporary basis. Speaking with the Russian Chess Federation, the colorful FIDE leader called the accusations “ridiculous”.

My conscience is clean, and I am absolutely sure that I am right. Moreover, in response to the sanctions by some bureaucrats, unknown for now, I decided to make a gift to the real chess fans in the United States. Along with the World Chess Championship, their country will also host the World Rapid and Blitz Championships among men and women as well as the largest children’s tournament. We also declared the year 2016 a Year of Chess in the United States.

Meanwhile, Mr. Ilyumzhinov also revealed plans to sue the U.S. government for $50 billion, an amount he claims approximates his “moral and financial damage.”

Kirsan_IlyumzhinovTwo months ago, Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, president of the World Chess Federation (FIDE), said that the United States should prosecute Gary Kasparov (his opponent in the last election) for corruption. It seems, however, that the U.S. government has other priorities. The Treasury Department has designated Ilyumzhinov a supporter of Assad’s government in Syria and imposed sanctions, including freezing all his U.S. assets and prohibiting U.S. citizens from transacting business with him.

Ilyumzhinov was among four individuals and six entities sanctioned. According to Treasury, he was designated for “materially assisting and acting for or on behalf of” the Government of Syria, the Central Bank of Syria, and other suspect individuals.

Kirsan Ilyumzhinov is no stranger to international controversy, having been a public supporter of Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi.

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FIDEThe race for the presidency of FIDE (the World Chess Federation) is heating up with controversy and negative campaigning. In his effort to unseat incumbent Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, former World Chess Champion and Russian political activist, Garry Kasparov, has been accused of buying votes.

According to a contract discovered by The New York Times and confirmed by an attorney for Kasparov’s campaign, the challenger has entered in to an agreement with Ignatius Leong of Singapore for a payment of $1 million in return for the votes of 11 Asian Chess federations. Half that money is clearly conditioned on delivery of votes but the attorney, Morten Sand, claims that all funds are for the “explicit purpose of chess development and programs” and that “no money can or will be allocated to individuals for personal use.”

Ignatius Leong is actually the current general secretary of FIDE under Ilyumzhinov. His agreement with Kasparov represents Leong switching sides in the election.

Payments under the contract, $250,000 annually for four years, are to be made by the Kasparov Chess Foundation to the ASEAN Chess Academy, an organization aimed at teaching Chess to children but owned by Mr. Leong. Further, the agreement calls for the opening of a FIDE office in Singapore headed by Leong and additional payments (to be negotiated separately) should Leong deliver more than 15 votes.

But the intrigue doesn’t end there! Regarding how a draft of the Kasparov-Leong contract made its way to The New York Times, Mr. Sand suggested that it was the work of FIDE officials:

On the opening day of the 2013 FIDE World Cup in Tromsø, Ignatius and I understood that high FIDE officials possibly had access to the draft Agreement now circulated. I sent it to Ignatius in July, using his FIDE email account. The only way to get possession of this draft is through the administrator of the mail account in FIDE. There can only be political reasons for why this is now made public in such a way.

FIDE Executive Director Nigel Freeman then responded to this accusation by releasing the following official statement:

The statement of Morton Sand is entirely false. It is obvious that there is an attempt to drive the discussion away from the substance of this issue, i.e. whether such contracts are ethical or not. For the leaking of confidential documents, Garry Kasparov’s team should perhaps look amongst themselves.

Following that, another spokesman for Kasparov said via Twitter:

How do you know it’s false? If you have reviewed the logs for his account, why not make them public?… Unless of course you’re just saying it’s false as an excuse to put inappropriate campaign news on the official FIDE site. Again.

Ilyumzhinov has also taken to the FIDE website with an open letter calling on Leong to resign.

Not that Ilyumzhinov is any stranger to controversy either. He was largely unknown in the Chess world before being helped in to the position of FIDE president by the previous holder of that position, who himself resigned after being convicted in the Philippines of financial irregularities involving the 1992 Chess Olympiad in Manila. Kirsan Ilyumzhinov is the former president of the Russian republic, Kalmykia; claims to have been abducted by aliens; alleges that Chess was invented by aliens; and was a supporter of Libyan dictator Qaddafi.

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