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Asian Federations Sign Open Letter in Support of Leong

Asian Federations Sign Open Letter in Support of Leong

Representatives of Asian chess federation have signed an open letter in which they express their support for Ignatius Leong, the current General Secretary of FIDE and part of Garry Kasparov's Presidential ticket. In January a draft of a contract between Mr Kasparov and Mr Leong was leaked to chess media which raised ethical questions, but the federations “trust and value the integrity and significant experience” of Mr Leong.

At the General Assembly in August in Tromsø, Norway the new FIDE President for the coming four years will be elected. At the moment there are two candidates: the incumbent President, Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, and his challenger, Garry Kasparov.

At the end of January the fight between the two became more grim, when a draft of a contract between Garry Kasparov and Ignatius Leong was leaked to chess media. The document raised ethical questions but also called for more transparency in chess politics.

Kasparov and Leong made a deal in August 2013 for the Asian region: Leong would help getting Kasparov "10+1" votes in return for large sums of money. Less than a week after the document became known, the Kasparov team put the final version of the contract on its campaign website, stressing the importance of transparency.

Thus far Ignatius Leong himself, who still hasn't resigned from his post as General Secretary of FIDE, despite several requests from board members, has been silent. However, earlier this week he created a blog, and not without a sense of flair, used the URL http://www.fidexfiles.blogspot.com. The header reads: “FIDE Revealed. The Truth Is In Here. The X Files.”

Only two blog posts have appeared since April 16th, 2014. On that day Mr Leong published both a statement by himself, and scans of the signatures of nine representatives of Asian chess federations.

In his statement he denies all claims about a possible conflict of interest:

“I wish to categorically and unequivocally state that allegations that Garry Kasparov and myself of agreed to corruption, bribery and/or vote buying pursuant to the Agreement are false and wholly unfounded.”

The agreement involved a payment by the Kasparov Chess Foundation to the Kasparov Chess Foundation Asia Pacific for supporting the mission of promoting and encouraging the study and play of chess in East Asia, South East Asia and the Pacific region as a means of intellectual development. Mr Leong writes that the money “was to be used only for the Project which would include only exclusively charitable or educational activities.”

Another issue with the agreement was that Mr Leong was the sole director and shareholder of ASEAN Chess Academy Pte Ltd, which would receive a separate payment. According to Mr Leong, no other purpose for these funds was contemplated than “chess programs and chess development in East Asia, South East Asia and the Pacific region.”

What Mr Leong doesn't comment on is what would be his part of the agreement: to deliver votes for Mr Kasparov from the Asian region. This clause was part of the leaked draft, and was still there in the final version of the contract.

In the second blog post there are scans of a joint open letter by the chess federations of Cambodia, Chinese Taipei, Indonesia, Hong Kong, Laos, Macao, Malaysia, Myanmar and Thailand - nine federations, although the introduction speaks about ten. We may assume that Singapore, where Mr Leong is from, also supports the letter. *Update: Korea should also be in that list.

In it, the federations state that they “trust and value the integrity and significant experience” of Mr Leong.

“We wish to categorically and unequivocally refute any suggestions that there has been vote-buying. It is scandalous, defamatory and erroneous to suggest that we, as national chess federations, can be “bought”! (...) Could this smear campaign on Ignatius be politically motivated because like us, he too has declared his support for Garry Kasprov in the 2014 FIDE elections?” 

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