The International Boxing Association (Aiba) has drawn further criticism after naming Gafur Rakhimov, a man described as “one of Uzbekistan's leading criminals” by US authorities, as its new interim president.
Aiba made the announcement following a one-day congress held on Saturday to address allegations of mismanagement under former president Ching-Kuo Wu. Aiba maintained that Rakhimov, its longest serving vice-president, was appointed according to its statues following the unexpected resignation of interim president Franco Falcinelli at the Extraordinary Congress held in Dubai.
Wu stepped down as president of Aiba in November as the two parties said they had “amicably agreed” to resolve the management issues within the sport’s global governing body and to withdraw and terminate all related pending procedures before civil courts and the Aiba Disciplinary Commission.
Proceedings were brought against Wu covering “several serious disciplinary charges including financial mismanagement,” the executive committee said at the time. Aiba’s disciplinary commission chairman first suspended Wu on October 9 after having allegedly “abused his powers in trying to dismiss six members of the executive committee and three members of the executive committee bureau.”
Falcinelli had since served as interim president, but on Saturday announced he would step down to take on the role of executive vice-president, a position through which he will also be in charge of developing a ‘New Foundation Plan’ for Aiba for 2018 and beyond.
A vote to name Wu as Aiba honorary president was rejected by an absolute majority at the weekend’s meeting and Rakhimov pledged to restore financial stability and transparency to the governing body in his new role.
“We must work closely with National Federations (NFs) and with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to restore confidence in Aiba’s financial management and in its integrity,” he said. “This means greater transparency and improved corporate governance of Aiba, together with independent audits that are conducted in the light of day and not hidden from the Aiba Executive Committee and NFs as happened last year.”
Falcinelli added: “He (Rakhimov) is a great ambassador for the sport. I am confident that he will provide the leadership to restore Aiba to greatness.”
However, the Associated Press news agency noted that the U.S. Treasury Department last month froze any assets Rakhimov held under American jurisdiction. “Rakhimov has been described as having moved from extortion and car theft to becoming one of Uzbekistan's leading criminals and an important person involved in the heroin trade,” the U.S. Treasury Department said.
Rakhmov is set to lead Aiba for the next nine months until a scheduled election in Moscow. Aiba was “obligated to follow the statutes” requiring the senior vice-president to fill any vacancy, executive committee member Pat Fiacco told the AP. “There is nothing negative that the executive committee can say,” Fiacco said, adding that Rakhimov has “contributed positively” to Aiba.
Rakhimov was linked last month to ‘Thieves-in-Law’ by the Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control. He allegedly has supported the criminal group by “providing warning of law enforcement issues, arranging meetings, and addressing other problems.”
“The Thieves-in-Law has grown into a vast criminal organisation which has spread throughout the former Soviet Union, Europe, and the United States, engaging in a variety of crimes, such as money laundering, extortion, bribery, and robbery,” the federal office said.
The AP said Rakhimov was crucial in renegotiating a $10m (€8.2m) loan from the embattled organisation’s main creditor, Benkons, a company from Azerbaijan. “He did that on his own,” Fiacco said of the new president’s work, adding he was “not aware of any travel issues at this stage” that would prevent Rakhimov working at Aiba headquarters in the Olympic capital Lausanne.
The IOC last month suspended funding payments to Aiba due to concerns over the body’s governance and ordered the organisation to provide a full report on its situation by the end of January.
In response to Aiba’s latest decision, the IOC said it is “extremely worried” about the organisation’s governance adding that it will “decide on further measures” at a meeting next weekend in South Korea which was already due to assess Aiba’s ongoing issues.
Rakhimov also named Tom Virgets, current chairman of the Aiba Disciplinary Commission, as the body’s new executive director. “Now is the time for us all to unite,” he added. “Our greatest responsibility must be to the millions of fans around the world who love boxing and want to be inspired by world-class boxing. We owe it to the fans to make boxing great again.”