15 December 2016

Spectating the 87th FIDE Congress

It's that time of year again -- no, not the yearend holiday festivities, but a look at what's happening inside FIDE. Just before last month's World Championship, FIDE released a set of documents titled,

The nearly 100 documents recorded there are more than anyone can review, so I'll limit myself to the topics I looked at last year:-

One topic I can drop is the 'Chess in Schools' subject, which I wrapped up on this blog after a three year series; see 'Chess in School' Summarized (October 2016). The annexes involved are:-

24. Trainers’ Commission’s report.
28. Proposed requirements on treatment of schools tournaments.
33. Chess in Schools Commission’s report.
34. Minutes of the CIS Councillors’ meeting.
35. Chess in Schools Commission’s proposals.
69. Minutes of Trainers’ Commission.
74. Minutes of Chess in Schools Commission.

The main minutes -- 87th FIDE Congress; Baku, Azerbaijan; General Assembly; 11-13 September 2016 -- always start with a report by President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov. After the usual platitudes, he jumped to the subject that interests everyone who follows FIDE.

He then briefed the delegates on the situation regarding the US sanctions. He said that he had no idea as to why he was placed on the sanctions list as he was completely innocent of the charges. He has appointed lawyers and was challenging the decision. He had been stopped at the last minute from visiting the USA where he was planning to prove his innocence in person. He said that he had requested to take up US citizenship in order that the case can be considered according to US laws.

The reasons for the sanctions aren't a secret. According to Treasury Sanctions Networks Providing Support to the Government of Syria (treasury.gov; November 2015),

Kirsan Ilyumzhinov was designated today for materially assisting and acting for or on behalf of the Government of Syria, Central Bank of Syria, Adib Mayaleh, and Batoul Rida. Ilyumzhinov is a wealthy Russian businessman, former president of the Russian Republic of Kalmykia, and long-time World Chess Federation president. He is linked to financial transactions involving Khuri-associated companies as early as 1997 and owns or controls the Russian Financial Alliance Bank, along with Khuri. [...]

In his talk to FIDE, Ilyumzhinov discussed this.

No single cent or ruble has been transferred to the Central Bank of Syria. That is why his declaration about financing, is a lie. He told the US representatives that yes he was supporting Syria, he was supporting Syrian kids, and chess players. Dr. Hani from Syria is here and they organised tournaments and he met Mr. Assad who was asking about chess developments.

A careful reading of the sanctions document indicates that money was paid *by*, not *to*, the Central Bank of Syria for procurement services rendered to Syria. The FIDE minutes also mentioned,

Mr. Wilkinson of Jamaica said that their Federation filed a request calling for the President’s resignation.

After a long discussion,

The General Assembly rejected the request of Mr. Wilkinson to amend the GA Agenda by including a proposal for the FIDE President to resign.

As with all legal disputes, this will work its way through the various legal systems. In the meantime, it's clear that the entire affair is having a negative effect on FIDE's self image. While the World Championship was being held in New York, I wondered why there seemed to be no Americans involved. When the sanctions document says,

U.S. persons are generally prohibited from engaging in transactions with [sanctioned individuals]

I understand that it was a precaution.

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