Contractgate? The Kasparov-Leong agreement

by Frederic Friedel
1/25/2014 – The story began last weekend, when a draft contract between Garry Kasparov, who is running for FIDE President, and his running mate Ignatius Leong were leaked. It was suggested that large sums of money were passing to Leong in return for votes in the presidential election. Now Kasparov has replied to the accusations in an unprecedented way: by publishing the full text of the final contract.

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The Contract Scandal

The first we heard of the matter was on January 18, in a message sent to us (and some German newspapers) from someone calling himself Bill Warth. Attached was the PDF of a six-page draft contract between Garry Kasparov, who is running for FIDE President, and Ignatius Leong, General Secretary of FIDE and founder of ASEAN Chess Academy. Leong is on Kasparov's Presidential team. It was dated August 2013.

The message by Bill Warth included comments and talking points relating to the attached contract, along the following lines: "It is clear that Ignatius Leong is shamelessly using a shareholders for-profit company (ACA) to profit from an election deal within FIDE. The votes of national federations in Asia are considered as a merchandise by Leong. It is shameful that people from national chess federations of Asia are traded for hundreds thousands of dollars by Ignatius Leong and Garry Kasparov. Do the sponsors and donors of Kasparov know that at least 2 million US dollars will go to Leong and his for-profit company?"

The document properties of the attached PDF file showed it was created by Morten Sand, a Norwegian Attorney at Law and former adivsor to the FIDE Presidential board. On Jan. 19 Sand issued a statement confirming that his law firm had a regular retainer contract as an advisor helping Garry Kasparov to become the next FIDE President, and that the draft contract being circulated was indeed by him.

"I was asked to draft an Agreement between Garry and Ignatius based on information given to me regarding their future cooperation. On the opening day of the 2013 FIDE World Cup in Tromsø, Ignatius and I understood that high FIDE officials possibly had access to the draft Agreement now circulated. I sent it to Ignatius in July, using his FIDE email account. The only way to get possession of this draft is through the administrator of the mail account in FIDE. There can only be political reasons for why this is now made public in such a way.

The final version of the Agreement was later signed on September 5th. By the time of the signing, the Parties had agreed that all financial support was given with the explicit purpose of chess development and programs. No money was going to individuals. On October 31st the Kasparov Chess Foundation (KCF) made an Agreement with the Kasparov Chess Foundation Asia Pacific (KCFAP), listing how and for what purpose any transferred money could distributed and spent.

[Later FIDE released a statement saying the claim by Morten Sand that the contract must have been leaked through the administrator of the mail account in FIDE was entirely false. "It is obvious that there is an attempt to drive the discussion away from the substance of this issue, i.e. whether such contracts are ethical or not. For the leaking of confidential documents, Garry Kasparov's team should perhaps look amongst themselves." On the same day FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov wrote a letter to Ignatius Loeng asking him to resign from his position as FIDE General Secretary.]

In the days following the initial Bill Warth message we received multiple copies of the draft contract, with demands that we publish it. We were even accused of trying to cover up the matter for our friend Garry Kasparov. In reality we were simply unwilling to publish a document that might have been illegally obtained. Instead we asked the affected parties for their comments on the entire "contractgate" affair.

Then, on January 21, the chess blog of the New York Times broke the story, and the next day a version of it appeared in print, on page B13 of the New York edition.

Kasparov fires back

On January 22 we at last received a call from the man himself. Garry Kasparov was in New York and spoke to us on Skype. Here are some of the things he said, on the record, in reply to the allegations:

“It's really quite interesting. When I first announced I would run for president my opponents said I had no chance because I would never find the financial backing. When I got the financial backing they said, well, Kasparov is going to keep it all for himself. When I invested it in my campaign and chess programs and put together this great team, they say, okay, but now he's handing out bribes! On Friday I will publish the contracts, which show that all the money (I repeat: All. The. Money.) must go to chess promotion and education. It's not easy to think of what they will say then, but I'm sure they will come up something.

These guys have been running FIDE into the ground for 19 years so they want to talk about anything other than their record and our positive agenda and the success we have had bringing investment into chess. It's ironic that their accusations against me reveal what they are most afraid of: that I can bring millions of dollars of sponsorship to promote chess, and that I will sign contracts with federations and organizers and deliver, instead of breaking promises and doing everything behind closed doors the way they do. But I know from experience that accountability and transparency are the only way to get those sponsors.

So let’s stop wasting time with this dirt and get back to the issues. We are always available to the federations, to listen to their concerns and ideas, to come up with the best ways to bring in the aid, training, and support they need. Many federations have contacted us to ask about how they can help us and how we can help them. And, by the way, that is exactly what FIDE should do, and doesn’t do, but will do when my team is in charge.”

Then, on January 24 Garry Kasparov for the first time replied publicly to the allegations that were now starting to appear on many different sites. And he kept his promise by actually publishing the final version of hie contract with Leong – asking his opponents to do the same with their contracts and agreements.

This week, a source undoubtedly allied with the current FIDE leadership attempted to tarnish the Kasparov team – and did so by anonymously circulating feverish allegations accompanying a draft contract actually stolen from the recipient. But we are united and dedicated to our mission. Seeing such dirty tricks only reconfirms to us and to the chess world the great need for positive change in FIDE.

We have taken it upon ourselves to challenge and improve the course of FIDE and chess around the world. There must be an end to undelivered promises, hidden agendas, and foul play with the purpose only of keeping people in power. Let it be known that the final and signed contracts between Mr. Leong and I were made public as of 24.01.14. Let it also be known that the Kasparov Team welcomes such transparency and are looking forward to seeing our opponents act in the same manner.

In another statement, released on the same day, Morten Sand specifies:

This is an historic day, as for the first time in 20 years of FIDE elections a campaign team is following the principle of transparency by making public two contracts: The first, between Garry Kasparov and Ignatius Leong, and the second, between the Kasparov Chess Foundation and the Kasparov Chess Foundation Asia-Pacific.

The first contract, signed on the 5th of September, 2013, deviates on at least one significant point from the draft that was stolen and published. The funds described in paragraph 3.1 as $500K is in the end incorporated into paragraph 4.1. All this money is to be spent for chess programs in the Asia-Pacific region.

In order to regulate the proper expenditure of funds, a separate agreement between KCF and KCF-AP was signed on the 31st of October. This contract describes the terms of expenditure and accountability of the funds.

Paragraph 2 of the aforementioned agreement specifically prohibits money being paid out to individuals outside of the scope of the agreement itself.

Attached are two PDF files, which you are welcome to study and form your own opinion:

As of writing Kasparov has landed in Holland and is now in Wijk aan Zee. He will ring the gong to open round ten of the Tata Steel Tournament at 13:30h local time on Saturday, and then hold a press conference at 13:45. It will be broadcast live on the live games section of the official tournament site, where he will also do live commentary from 15:00 to 16:00h. Don't miss all of this!

Editor-in-Chief emeritus of the ChessBase News page. Studied Philosophy and Linguistics at the University of Hamburg and Oxford, graduating with a thesis on speech act theory and moral language. He started a university career but switched to science journalism, producing documentaries for German TV. In 1986 he co-founded ChessBase.


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