FIDE: UBS Closing FIDE Bank Account Today

FIDE: UBS Closing FIDE Bank Account Today

PeterDoggers
PeterDoggers
Apr 30, 2018, 7:47 AM |
60 | Chess Event Coverage

According to FIDE officials, UBS Bank in Switzerland is closing the account of the World Chess Federation today. FIDE still hasn't found a new bank.

Today, UBS Bank's deadline for FIDE to find a new financial partner expires. As was announced in February, the Swiss bank will now be closing the account, says FIDE Treasurer Adrian Siegel.

UBS could not confirm or deny the report to Chess.com, and provided only a general statement: "We can't comment on whether individuals or organizations are clients of UBS. We follow all laws and regulations that are applicable to us."

A closing of the account would mean all operations between FIDE and UBS will be terminated. Payment orders will no longer be executed and incoming payments will be returned to the sender. Debit and credit cards will be blocked.

According to FIDE officials, UBS is terminating its relations with FIDE because of its president Kirsan Ilyumzhinov's presence on the sanctions list of the U.S. Department of the Treasury. Ilyumzhinov himself has stated that the sanctions were not mentioned by UBS.

Despite several efforts, FIDE failed to find a new bank in time. "We have to deal with another finance institute which allows us to manage our financial obligations," Siegel told Chess.com.

On April 26, Ilyumzhinov sent a letter to FIDE's executive director Nigel Freeman, in which he gave the contact details of two banks which, he suggested, might work with FIDE: CIM Bank in Geneva and Bank of America in New Jersey.

Ilyumzhinov to Freeman UBS Bank

The next day Freeman replied in a letter, stating that FIDE already had unsuccessful talks with CIM Bank because this bank also has a problem with Ilyumzhinov as the head of FIDE. He lists 18 banks that "refused to even meet with us," mentions banks in Georgia and Romania who refused to open accounts and finishes his letter saying: "I do not think you can be serious suggesting a U.S. bank, whilst you, as President of FIDE, are still on the U.S. Treasury sanctions list."

Freeman to Ilyumzhinov UBS Bank

"It is no help at all (or at least it has a hypocritical touch) if suggestions for a new bank come in only four days prior to the closure of the accounts," wrote Siegel. "No serious bank can open an account in four days."

Siegel said that the current FIDE assets would be transferred to "another financial institute" but he could not say which as to not "jeopardise the business."

Freeman confirmed to Chess.com that FIDE has "taken its measures." He doesn't see any "major effects on people" and hopes to have resolved the situation in a week or two.

Chess.com spoke to Lisa Fritts of Bank of America (one of Ilyumzhinov's contacts), who confirmed that her bank was ready to investigate the possibility of opening an account as long as the entity has a presence in America and a tax authority number.

Fritts said she had been in touch with a person named Glen Stark, a venture capitalist and fan of chess (as is mentioned in his cv, in PDF here). Stark is also the President & CEO of the "Kirsan Fund," which was founded one year ago and is intended to support "chess in schools," "chess in villages," "chess in families" and "chess for people with disabilities."

Stark, who is a member of Ilyumzhinov's ticket for the FIDE presidential elections (announced a few day ago), plans to register the Kirsan Fund at the Bank of America, which will obviously have a direct link with FIDE if Ilyumzhinov wins the presidential elections. 

Whether such a construction could circumvent problems arising from Ilyumzhinov's presence on the sanctions list remains to be seen. 

"From the information I received verbally, we are talking about an American company with a tax authority number. I don't see a problem with that," Fritts said.

Freeman said he couldn't yet comment on whether such a construction would be possible. "We're seeking legal advice."

Ilyumzhinov was added to the sanctions list in November 2015. His name was specifically mentioned as part of a group "providing support to the government of Syria, including for facilitating Syrian government oil purchases from ISIL."

Ilyumzhinov is currently not responsible for any legal, financial and business operations of FIDE; those are being taken care of by FIDE deputy president Georgios Makropoulos. For UBS Bank and, as now becomes clear for many more banks, this doesn't make a difference.

The FIDE presidential elections will be on October 3. If no other candidates will appear, the vote will go between Makropoulos, who recently announced his candidacy, and Ilyumzhinov. 


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