Friday, October 23, 2020

Ex-athletics chief Diack’s corruption trial to start in Paris

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Lamine Diack, the disgraced former head of athletics’ world governing body, is to go on trial in Paris on Monday over corruption charges linked to the Russia doping scandal.

Diack, the 86-year-old Senegalese who was in charge of the International Association of Athletics Federations (now World Athletics), between 1999 and 2015, is charged with “giving and receiving bribes”, “breach of trust” and “organised money laundering”.

The trial is scheduled to run for three days a week until January 23 and the charges carry a maximum sentence of 10 years’ prison.

Also appearing in court will be Habib Cisse, Diack’s former legal advisor, who is suspected of having acted as an intermediary between the then-IAAF and Russian athletics. The former IAAF anti-doping chief Gabriel Dolle will also be there, accused of “receiving bribes”. Both are French.

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Missing from the trial, however, will be Diack’s son Papa Massata Diack, who handled lucrative contracts for the IAAF.

Diack junior is accused of playing a “central role” in the network of corruption and is charged with “money laundering”, “giving bribes” and “aiding the receiving of bribes”.

Together, the Diacks are suspected of being at the heart of a web of corruption.

The investigations by the French Financial Prosecutor’s Office include allegations that Lamine Diack obtained Russian funds for political campaigns in Senegal, in exchange for the IAAF’s anti-doping arm covering up Russian offences.

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The deal also facilitated negotiations with Russian sponsors and broadcasters before the World Athletics Championships in Moscow in 2013.

The case is being pursued by the French authorities because the alleged money-laundering happened in France.

Lamine Diack has been forbidden to leave France since the investigation began. Papa Massata Diack has been holed up in his native Senegal, out of reach of the French authorities.

Papa Massata Diack was, however, questioned in Dakar in November over accusations against him and his father.

A source told AFP Papa Massata Diack had been questioned by an investigating magistrate as part of a separate Senegalese investigation, with no further details given.

He has refused to leave Senegal and despite two international arrest warrants issued by France, the Senegalese authorities have said they will not extradite him.

The scandal that the trial touches on led to Russia being banned from competing in several international competitions over state-sponsored doping between 2011 and 2015. Despite being reinstated by other sports federations, Russia is still banned from competing as a nation by World Athletics.




There are two other defendants who will also be absent from the court in Paris.

Valentin Balakhnichev, a former head of the Russian athletics federation and IAAF treasurer, is accused of “giving and receiving bribes” and “aggravated money-laundering”. Alexei Melnikov, formerly Russia’s chief distance running coach, is accused of “receiving bribes.”

Both are subjects of international arrest warrants.

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