FIDE Elections And The Fight Against Corruption
More news from the FIDE political saga.

FIDE Elections And The Fight Against Corruption

PeterDoggers
PeterDoggers
Jul 19, 2018, 6:28 AM |
36 | Chess Politics

Three weeks after the three candidates for the FIDE presidential elections became known, the key word for some of the candidates seems to be "corruption." An anti-corruption committee has been established, and Makropoulos ticket members have accused Dvorkovich of bribery.

Anti-corruption committee

At the second quarter 2018 presidential board meeting that took place in Bucharest, Romania last week, FIDE established a brand new electoral integrity committee. The committee will "investigate cases of alleged corruption and recommend action accordingly to the competent authorities."

As is mentioned on the FIDE website, the new commission was created because "[t]he election process [must] not only be fair but be seen to be fair." It further says:

No Federation Presidents, delegates or officials in FIDE of any national chess federation should accept any gifts, subsidy, inducements, financial or otherwise, or accept any hospitality from a Presidential or Continental electoral candidate, member, adviser or supporter of a Presidential ticket or electoral candidate. All Presidents, officials, delegates or candidates should immediately report any such offer to the electoral integrity committee.

The exact status and mandate of the electoral integrity committee is open to question, taking into account that FIDE already has an electoral commission and an ethics commission. The members of these commissions are elected and approved by the general assembly, while it is not clear how the members of the electoral integrity committee were chosen.

Currently, FIDE is led by Georgios Makropoulos. As one of the three presidential candidates, he intends to become the FIDE president on October 3 in Batumi.

In the same week that the anti-corruption committee was established, Makropoulos and the FIDE treasurer Adrian Siegel have accused one of their opponents in these elections, Arkady Dvorkovich, of bribery. 

Makropoulos

Georgios Makropoulos. | Photo: Maria Emelianova.

Dvorkovich accused of bribery

Last week, in emails to Chess.com, Siegel and Makropoulos responded to our July 4 news report on the official announcement of the three candidates FIDE Presidential Elections Now Officially 3-Horse Race.

The FIDE officials criticized Chess.com's use of a tweet by Silvio Danailov and asked why we didn't write about alleged bribery by Dvorkovich.

Siegel, in an email on July 7:

"[Y]ou don't investigate why some representatives of African chess federations have been invited to the football semi-finals in Russia. Thus, instead of spreading nonsense from a person who has been suspended by FIDE Ethics Commission it might be of interest to the chess world that the football World Cup is used for bribing."

Makropoulos, in an email on July 13:

"[A]lthough it is announced by Dvorkovich team that many African federations will receive by him tickets to go to the Olympiad and although delegates have been invited for free (including their transportation and hospitality costs) to football World Cup, you do not write any article about this."

Siegel mentioned delegates from Djibouti, Ghana, Kenya, and Seychelles as having been invited to Russia for the FIFA World Cup. [Update: a few days after this article was posted, Siegel retracted his claim about Ghana and apologised to the federation's delegate.]

Chess.com contacted three of them via Whatsapp to see whether these serious allegations were borne out by facts.

Philip Elikem Ameku, delegate for Ghana, said he did not travel to Russia. Ahmed Hassan Abdillahi, delegate for Djibouti, indeed traveled to Russia (which he shared on Facebook on July 6). He told Chess.com his government had paid for the flight. He didn't answer whether he attended the FIFA World Cup and if so, who arranged the tickets.

Chess.com briefly spoke on the phone with Benard Wanjala, delegate for Kenya, and continued via Whatsapp due to bad reception. At first, Wanjala denied that he had been to Russia, stating that he had "missed the flight."

Confronted with a Facebook screenshot of his FIFA fan ID, a document required to enter the football stadium, he corrected himself: "I traveled to Samara on my own cost and part of the time I met our team leader Lewis [Ncube, Africa's Continental President -PD] to discuss our campaign strategies. So in short, I can confirm I was in Russia." With screenshots of payments, Wanjala confirmed to Chess.com the payments were made by himself.

Malcolm Pein, on Makropoulos's ticket as Deputy President, tweeted Wanjala's FIFA fan ID and linked to an article in the Telegraph—a newspaper he writes for himself—that links Dvorkovich to "allegations of corruption and vote-buying" but doesn't provide further details.

Chess.com also spoke with Sewa Enyonam Noël Fumey, who is the delegate for Togo. He said that Dvorkovich had indeed arranged his flight and football ticket, but that it was logical since he is on Dvorkovich's ticket as general secretary, and the Dvorkovich team had a work meeting in Moscow last week to plan their elections campaign.

Makropoulos' claim that it was "announced by [the] Dvorkovich team that many African federations will receive by him tickets to go to the Olympiad" seems to be based on messages posted in a Whatsapp group called "Africa Chess News," to which a number of African delegates are subscribed. In that Whatsapp group, of which Chess.com obtained screenshots, Fumey writes:

"We are getting 100.000€ on the table to start and we need to remain open and public and to budget it. From people who are ready to buy dreams if we are really able to unite to be strong!

We must set quickly a commission for Africa to Batumi that will check the teams and help those that cannot afford the tickets, those that should let the money in the bag for other collective needs."

It is not clear when exactly the conversation took place, but Fumey told Chess.com on the phone that it was before Dvorkovich had announced his candidacy, and that the 100,000 euros were not coming from him:

"This money was coming from somewhere else. Besides, it was not official yet, and mentioned in a private Whatsapp group. If it would be serious, I would publish about it."

Noel Fumey

Sewa Enyonam Noël Fumey, delegate for Togo and part of Dvorkovich's ticket. | Photo: Facebook.

Dvorkovich himself had a different version. He told Chess.com:

"I was very surprised about this. I invited him to my ticket, during a phone conversation, because he was recommended by many of my colleagues from different communities, mostly in Africa and Europe. So I called him, and said: you are recommended by many respected people, I invite you to my ticket. He said: That’s wonderful; I will start talking to my people in Africa immediately.

Then, the next day people are writing me that he started to make statements about 100,000 euros of support. But we didn’t even discuss this! I called him and said: Stop doing this, you’re talking complete nonsense. And he stopped. Of course I am paying some of his travel costs but that’s because I need him in Moscow sometimes, that’s part of the campaign. It’s normal, I think."

Dvorkovich denied that he paid for flight tickets for the FIDE delegates who travelled to Russia: "They paid themselves, or their federations."

He did arrange tickets to football matches, for about 15 chess people in total. But Dvorkovich does not see this as bribery. He told Chess.com:

"As a chairman of the organising committee I had the right to invite partners, colleagues, anyone, to the World Cup. And I invited many people: football players, ice hockey players, tennis players, business men, from different countries all around the world, coming to the World Cup by my personal invitation.

"I was also asked by some of the chess federations, not only from Africa; also from Europe, Asia and Latin America. I said: Yes, you can come; the thing I can provide for you is the invitation to the stadium. I could not give everyone tickets to the final, so some of them went to other matches, for example in Samara.

"But I never asked them for their support at any moment of time. I just made their dreams come true; it was not linked to the elections. Some of them told me openly: we are not going to support you. Yes we came, but we will vote for Nigel or Mr Makropoulos. But we came here because we just wanted to watch the World Cup."

Dvorkovich gave some more background, related to him visiting the FIDE presidential board in Bucharest:

"One of the important proposals I made to [Makropoulos] was to sign an agreement on fair play principles for the campaign. These principles included not using FIDE resources on his part, or state resources on my part for campaigning."

More about this, and Dvorkovich's plans for the future of chess, will be published soon as part of an interview conducted by Chess.com in Moscow.

Arkady Dvorkovich

Arkady Dvorkovich. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

Dvorkovich and Short respond to new committee

Meanwhile, both Dvorkovich and the third candidate, Nigel Short, have reacted on the news about the new anti-corruption committee.

In a tweet, Dvorkovich said he was surprised that Makropoulos "hasn't initiated it earlier" and proposed a "first official inquiry" by the committee.

In an attached letter, he notes that the upcoming Olympiad in Batumi will not have a single principal arbiter from Russia or the USA, while Austria, Georgia, Germany and Greece will have two. Dvorkovich then mentions a much broader topic, arguing that "the whole system of appointments in FIDE looks corrupted", where he refers to appointments to appeals committees, choices of venues and decisions to allocate subsidies.

A few days later Makropoulos replied to Dvorkovich in a tweet, in which he attached a PDF document with the full reply. He explains meticulously how the arbiters for the Olympiad have been selected, and suggests Dvorkovich is attacking him for political reasons: "Mr. Dvorkovich, unfortunately, follows the recent tactics of Mr. Ilyumzhinov, trying to defame his opponents." 

Short agreed on this one with Dvorkovich. He tweeted: "My Russian competitor for the FIDE Presidential Election makes some cogent points." The English grandmaster then made his own suggestion for an inquiry by the committee in another tweet: about one of the Vice Presidents on Makropoulos' ticket, Chitalu Chilufya.

Short included a link to an article in Zambian media that reports that Chilufya, currently Zambia's Minister of Health, is one of four ministers and opposition leaders that was reported to the Anti Corruption Commission (ACC) by the National Democratic Congress NDC.

Makropoulos told Chess.com about Chilufya:

"If there are concrete facts we will react instantly and effectively. With the inner political fights in Zambia, let Nigel Short deal with those. Besides, it is obvious that he hasn't got anything else to do. It is obvious that Short is working for Mr. Dvorkovich and even Ignatius Leong has announced on his Facebook an upcoming alliance of Short with the Russian candidate.

"Furthermore, from the moment he announced his candidacy, he has 36 tweets referring to his opponents. All 36 are against me and my team. Three of those were also against Mr. Ilyumzhinov, one was also against Mr. Dvorkovich and one was in favour of Mr. Dvorkovich."

It should be pointed out that Chilufya was included in Makropoulos' ticket on June 22 as a substitute for Aguinaldo Jaime, who was removed when it was discovered that Jaime was mentioned in a document of the United States Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations (in PDF here) for attempts to transfer high sums of government funds to a private account.

In a tweet, Makropoulos pointed out that Nigel Short met with Jaime in 2010, when Short was supporting Anatoly Karpov in his election battle with Ilyumzhinov:

Short told Chess.com that he wasn't aware of Jaime's background at the time:

"Can you remind me whether I was running for office in 2010? Whether I was on anyone's ticket? It is completely absurd to make a comparison with the fact that I knew Jaime in 2010. This is totally different to putting him on your ticket in 2018."

Nigel Short

Nigel Short. | Photo: Maria Emelianova.

Travel subsidies announced

Starting from the 2014 Tromsø Olympiad, federations that lack financial means receive a special subsidy for sending their chess players to the Olympiad. In his aforementioned tweet, Dvorkovich stated that this subsidy is one of the processes in FIDE that needs to be looked at by the new anti-corruption committee.

FIDE announced this year's travel subsidies on July 13—only 10 days before the deadline for the registration of the teams. According to the FIDE treasurer, the announcement was delayed due to the need of the approval by the presidential board at its meeting in Bucharest last week.

FIDE announced that this year the travel subsidies will be higher than last time:

FIDE is pleased to announce the travel subsidy for participants for the Chess Olympiad & Congress, Batumi, Georgia 2018. All federations will receive more travel subsidy in 2018 than they did for Baku in 2016. Many teams that did not receive a team grant in 2016 will do in 2018. They are Nigeria, South Africa, Bhutan, Chinese Taipei, Malaysia, Thailand, Iceland, Ireland, Luxembourg, Montenegro, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Scotland, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Ukraine & Wales. In addition the ECU will be paid 30,000 euros to assist federations that are not receiving any travel subsidy.

FIDE also noted that "attending delegates will receive a travel grant. FIDE wants delegates to be present at the general assembly and reduce the number of proxies from federations."

Makropoulos commented:

"For the first time we are not expecting any serious complaints for the federations. Europe is the continent with the most countries which do not receive any travel subsidy, amongst them Greece." 

According to our calculations, more than 1.3 million euros will be paid. 1.2 million euros has been covered by the organizers of the Batumi Olympiad, and one million has already been transferred to FIDE.

Siegel told Chess.com that FIDE is not in a hurry receiving the remaining 200,000 since part of the subsidies is paid after the Olympiad anyway.

He confirmed that FIDE's two fiduciary accounts in Switzerland and Hongkong are capable of receiving money: "Even such amounts."

FIDE hasn't informed the federations yet on how and when these subsidies will be paid. In November 2016, Chess.com reported that several African participants of the Baku Olympiad had experienced financial problems as a result of delayed payments of travel subsidies by FIDE.

Some federations only received their reimbursement months after the end of the Olympiad, and other federations claim they never received the money.

On a final note, the candidates continue to fight their battle on Twitter:


Update: An earlier version of this article stated that Benard Wanjala hadn't sent screenshots of his payments yet. After this article was published, he sent those, confirming he made the payments himself.


Correction: an earlier version of this article stated that Adrian Siegel had mentioned that delegates from Djibouti, Ghana, Kenya, Seychelles and Togo had been invited to Russia. However, he did not mention Togo.


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