Fake Name On FIDE President Ilyumzhinov's Ticket
Who is Glen Stark?

Fake Name On FIDE President Ilyumzhinov's Ticket

PeterDoggers
PeterDoggers
May 9, 2018, 6:17 AM |
83 | Chess Politics

Last week, the incumbent FIDE president Kirsan Ilyumzhinov presented his ticket for the FIDE presidential elections, with which he managed to achieve the important endorsement from the Russian Chess Federation—despite the fact that one name on Ilyumzhinov's ticket is fake.

Who needs Netflix when you have the FIDE presidential elections? Old friends turning into sworn enemies, money disappearing and a suggested future secretary of FIDE who...doesn't exist. Or does he?

Ilyumzhinov's ticket

The current FIDE president, who announced his candidacy for a new term about a year ago, presented his team last week at a press conference in Russia. Since he lost the support of almost all current FIDE officials, we see a lot of new names:

  • Kirsan Ilyumzhinov (Russia)—President
  • Behgjet Isa Pacolli (Kosovo)—Deputy President
  • Glen Stark (USA)—Secretary General
  • Rajadarasri Jayankura (Thailand)—Vice President
  • Inal Sheripov (Belgium)—Vice President
  • Tahar Battikh (Tunisia)—Treasurer

The intended executive director is Willy Iclicki (Liechtenstein) and Philip Alimo (Ghana) will be press officer, but these aren't official positions on the ticket.

The common factor for the people on the ticket, besides being (business) friends of Ilyumzhinov, is that they are not active in the chess world at the moment, and hardly have any experience there either.

Iclicki is the one that stands out: he was the FIDE treasurer between 1990 and 1996, and currently is a member of the FIDE ethics commission and the FIDE constitutional commission. Reacting to a possible conflict of interest, Iclicki told Chess.com: "It's possible that I will resign from a commission, if needed; for instance, if the elections will be discussed."

Willy Iclicky

Willy Iclicki. | Photo: Andreas Kontokanis/Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0.

The other names are curious, to say the least.

Pacolli should be a very busy man as the first deputy prime minister and minister of foreign affairs of Kosovo. He is a major shareholder of Mabetex Group, a giant, Swiss-based, global construction and civil-engineering company and has close connections with the Kremlin.

Rajadarasri should know Pacolli well as she is Thailand's consul in Kosovo. She's also a businesswoman. Her relation to Ilyumzhinov is said to have originated from activities related to Buddhism, the religion they share. Her claim to be a Thai princess is contested by some.

Although there's a striking lack of information to be found online about Sheripov (besides living in Belgium and being the creator of "a theory about chess cinematography"), he is not the biggest enigma on the ticket. The main question is...

Who is Glen Stark?

The reason for asking is mostly because his name is not actually Glen Stark (pointed out earlier by Chessdom). He has a (very dated looking) website under that name, a Facebook and a Twitter account, but it's not him.

Glen Stark website

Stark's website on glstark.com, a domain created on April 18 this year according to whois.net.

His CV can be found on his website (here in PDF), and a quick research shows that something is not right here. A few items:

  • Vice President of the Executive Board of the Office of American Innovation
  • Co-Founder and Partner of Meridian Capital Group
  • Ex-Partner and co-founder of Chemical Venture Partners
  • Member of the Board of the Lauder Institute at the University of Pennsylvania
  • Member of the Writer’s Guild of America

The Office of American Innovation is kind of a think tank created by the Trump administration in March 2017, directed by Jared Kushner. Other advisors to the president are part of this office as well, but no Glen Stark. (In fact, there doesn't seem to be such thing as an "executive board" of the OAI.)

In fact, the name Glen Stark cannot be found on any website of the organizations mentioned on his CV. There's also no member called Glen Stark in the Writer's Guild of America.

Iclicki provided Chess.com with Stark's phone number, but kept calling him "Gary." The Whatsapp profile picture connected to the number is that of American actor Jeffrey Dean Morgan, also used on his Facebook. (His website is using a stock photo of a bald man.)  It's clear that we're dealing with someone who his hiding his true identity.

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A profile picture of Jeffrey Dean Morgan on Whatsapp.

The voice on the phone had a Russian accent, but with a good grasp of the English language. He said he had come from the Soviet Union to the United States 30 years ago, and confirmed that his name is Gary ("with one r!"). So why the fake name?

Classified

"The work I am doing, for the American government, is under clearance. I am dealing with technology and until this project finishes, by the end of June, I cannot reveal my name."

"Gary" confirmed that his work could be described as "classified." He denied that the hiding of his name is related to the fact that the U.S. government blocks people from having business ties with the sanctioned Ilyumzhinov.

And what about his CV?

"Everything is legit," said the man who claims to be Gary and the man behind the name Glen Stark. "At the end of June I can reveal my real name, and everything will be fine."

However, questions about the CV remain. For instance, the websites of the Meridian Capital GroupChemical Venture Partners and the Lauder Institute don't mention a "Gary" either.

Asked why Ilyumzhinov didn't mention that Glen Stark is not a real name, Gary replied: "I don't know. He just used the information I sent him."

The name Glen Stark first appeared in an interview with Ilyumzhinov in December 2017. The FIDE president mentioned that he was about to meet Stark, who was "one of the investors" and came to Moscow with American businessmen who are considering investing in Russia. "They are ready to invest in agriculture, food and the pharmaceutical industry," Ilyumzhinov said.

Kirsan Ilyumzhinov in Baku 2016

Kirsan Ilyumzhinov introduces another business partner to the chess world. | Photo: Mike Klein/Chess.com.

Stark is also named as the CEO of the "Kirsan Fund," launched a year ago and announced in a letter by Ilyumzhinov to federations:

"Its activities will cover North and South America. This month, I plan to open the Kirsan Fund in Brussels (it will work in Europe and Africa) and in Seoul (it will cover Asia, Australia and Oceania). I intend to invest 10 million dollars in each of them."

No doubt, the Kirsan Fund will be a major action point for Ilyumzhinov during his campaign in the coming months. The true identity of Stark, therefore, seems crucial.

As reported by Chess.com last week, Glen Stark / Gary has been in touch with Bank of America about the possibility to open a bank account there. This seemed related to the Swiss bank UBS closing FIDE's bank account, but Gary denied plans to circumvent problems arising from Ilyumzhinov's presence on the sanctions list. "It is not my intention to connect the Kirsan Fund and the FIDE account," he said.

Gary said he doesn't believe the claim of FIDE executive director Nigel Freeman that dozens of banks in Europe have declined opening an account for FIDE because of Ilyumzhinov. On a final note, during our phone call he said he was very hopeful to find major sponsorship that would exceed the current budget of FIDE (2.5 million dollars) multiple times. 

Endorsement Russian Chess Federation

With his ticket, Ilyumzhinov did manage to get the very important endorsement from the supervisory board of the Russian Chess Federation, last Sunday in Sochi. Eleven board members voted for the endorsement, and zero against with eight abstentions.

The endorsement is "a big victory" for Ilyumzhinov, said Iclicki. "This was very important to him. In 2010, initially the federation was supporting Karpov until the Kremlin ordered to switch to Kirsan."

In February, Ilyumzhinov tried to get direct support from his federation. "But Filatov said we have to choose between him and Anatoly Karpov, and postponed the voting until May," said Iclicki. "But Karpov told me he is not running."

Speaking to Tass, the RCF president Andrei Filatov mentioned that "if the ticket changes, we can withdraw our support."

Filatov said that as soon as the government of the Russian Federation is formed (Vladimir Putin's reelection was on March 18), a meeting will be held with the Foreign Ministry "because some people on the ticket raise questions."

Filatov Ilyumzhinov

Filatov and Ilyumzhinov in 2014 in Sochi. | Photo: Mike Klein/Chess.com.

The final deadline for presidential candidates to send in their tickets will be announced by FIDE soon, but is likely to be end June or early July, three months before the elections. Candidates need to give their six names, and present letters from six member federations that support them.

If no other candidates appear, Ilyumzhinov's opponents will be FIDE deputy president Georgios Makropoulos and GM Nigel Short. The English grandmaster announced his candidacy earlier this week.

Where's the money?

Makropoulos and his team claim that FIDE has lost its bank account because of the sanctions upon Ilyumzhinov. Now, nine days after UBS closed the account, the current FIDE leadership still hasn't provided any information about the whereabouts of FIDE's money.

Speaking to Chess.com, Short raised this point. "Where is the money? The executive board is not prepared to tell. Is what they are doing legal or not? If it's now in an account of a different entity, it might legally belong to someone else."

FIDE needs to be more transparent, said Short. "Such a thing should should be open to everyone to see. These are questions everyone deserves to know."


Correction: an earlier version of this story erroneously mentioned that Ilyumzhinov's ticket came with a continuation of PhosAgro's sponsorship of the federation for 30 million rubles (€400,000/$475,350). However, there is no connection between PhosAgro and Ilyumzhinov.

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