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Latest Investigation Into AIBA Further Damages Its Credibility

Latest Investigation Into AIBA Further Damages Its Credibility
By Conall Cahill

Latest AIBA investigation: a report into AIBA by PricewaterhouseCoopers raises some troubling questions regarding a loan paid to amateur boxing's governing body from Azerbaijan in 2010.

Back in 2011 a BBC report uncovered a $9million payment from Azerbaijan into the coffers of AIBA. It was alleged then that the payment was in return for guaranteed gold medals for Azerbaijan boxers at the London Olympics the following year - something that AIBA lawyers claimed was "preposterous and utterly untrue". One fight in particular in London, between Satoshi Shimizu (Japan) and Magomed Abdulhamidov (Azerbaijan), drew particular ire from onlookers when Abdulhamidov was knocked to the ground six times and still 'won' the fight (the result was successfully appealed).

And a report in the 'Guardian' earlier this summer on the eve of the Rio Games quoted "senior figures" within amateur boxing who warned that there would be fixed bouts in the Games. While AIBA then claimed to have "undertaken major governance changes ensuring the long-term development of our sport" the boxing in Rio was overshadowed by some incomprehensible results - not least the one involving our own Mick Conlan who in his own words "beat the beg" out of his opponent Vladimir Nikitin only to be told he had 'lost' the fight.

AIBA subsequently suspended all 36 of the judges who had officiated in Rio. And the revelations in the 'New York Times' have done nothing to improve the organisation's image, as for the first time there is documentation addressing the substantial loan from Azerbaijan into AIBA coffers.

The story in the 'Times' is discussing a leaked report conducted into AIBA's affairs by accountancy firm PricewaterhouseCoopers that investigates a $10 million loan from a private company in Azerbaijan to AIBA. Investigators, the 'Times' writes, "could not account for how more than $4.5 million of the money was spent". Neither could AIBA, according to the report. In fact, the report recommends that AIBA seek "legal counsel" due to potential breaches of the Swiss Criminal Code.

The loan towards AIBA is in relation to North American World Series Of Boxing (WSB) competitions, the "problematic bookkeeping" of which AIBA claimed to be looking into. The organisation point the finger of blame at Ho Kim, a former AIBA deputy who oversaw the North American project. It is worth noting that Kim was fired from his role at AIBA after a revolt by AIBA staff against president Ching-kuo Wu.

The company that made the loan is named as 'Benkons MMC', based in Baku. That the company has had no previous experience with sports businesses makes the loan all the more mystifying, as does the fact that AIBA did not inform Benkons how it was spending their money - or keep account on its books of millions of losses it was running up as a result of the WSB venture, an omission which could also land them in hot water with the Swiss criminal courts.

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The 'Times' notes that since the loan the fortunes of Azerbaijan fighters have improved dramatically.

Since the loan was made, Azerbaijan has won nine medals, including four gold, at the three world championships since 2010, up from four medals, without a single gold, before that. Azerbaijani boxers won four medals in the past two Olympics, compared with three at the two Olympics before that.

These revelations will further reduce any credibility AIBA has left after a summer in which its blue riband event, Olympic boxing, was shrouded in disgrace. It is significant, too, that the $10 million loan is addressed in an official report rather than being the subject of mere allegations.

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Four years out from the next Olympics, the future of amateur boxing - at least, the future of its governing body - appears to be distinctly uncertain.

(New York Times)

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