FIDE's bank account closed

by Macauley Peterson
2/14/2018 – Bad press for FIDE as Dr. Adrian M. Siegel, the organisation's treasurer, has informed all officials and members of the World Chess Federation via an open letter that the FIDE account has been closed by the Swiss UBS bank, due to the more than two year old sanctions of the US Treasury against FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov. | Photo (of Dr. Siegel): GFHund (Sarah Hund) CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

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Ilyumzhinov blamed for new financial burden

In 2015, Kirsan Ilyumzhinov was sanctioned by the U.S. Department of the Treasury, due to his links with the Russian Financial Alliance Bank, said to have been involved in financial transactions with Syrian banks which have supported the Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad. As a result of the sanctions, Swiss UBS, which has held FIDE's account for many years, asked the World Chess Federation to clarify the matter. Now, they appear to have lost patience.

In a letter from FIDE Treasurer Dr. Adrian Siegel, dated on February 12th, and posted to the FIDE home page on Tuesday, it was revealed that the Federation's accounts are being closed "immediately", as a direct consequence of Ilymzhinov's continued presence on the sanction list.

Letter from FIDE Treasurer Siegel

Letter posted to FIDE.com on February 13th (click or tap to enlarge image)

The letter notes that over two years ago the Presidential Board unanimously took measures to mitigate the risk by transfering his duties and powers to Deputy President Georgios Makropoulos.

Kirsan IlymzhinovThe FIDE leadership wanted to give Ilymzhinov a chance to answer the charges, and he claimed to be pursuing efforts to clear his name. But the situation came to a head last April, when it briefly appeared that Ilyumzhinov had resigned as president because of these problems. Soon after, however, the supposed resignation was declared a misunderstanding. Since then Ilyumzinov has been President in name, while Makropoulos runs the show.

Ilyumzhinov, who has been in office since 1995, has indicated that he would like to lead FIDE's fortunes for yet another term, but he is facing an icy headwind. His one-time loyal supporters have now apparently almost closed ranks against him. 

The next presidential elections will be at the FIDE General Assembly during the 2018 Chess Olympiad in Batumi. While previous elections were accompanied by fierce fighting, this time no candidate has yet thrown his hat in the ring — with the exception of Kirsan Ilyumzhinov.
 

(Above right) Ilyumzhinov at the  recent Congress of the Russian Chess Federation, where he was ostensibly seeking support as a candidate in the RCF's presidential elections, but withdrew his name ahead of the vote | Photo: Eteri Kublashvili and Vladimir Barsky

Devastating global news headlines

The latest turn of events has (predictably) resulted today in headlines like this in The Telegraph:

"World chess body has Swiss bank accounts frozen after president accused of links to Isil oil deals"

The BBC quotes "Mr Ilymuzhinov's defence team" as saying that he was "not aware that Fide's bank accounts have been frozen by UBS", and that the letter is part of a "smear campaign related to a power struggle".

If calling attention to the UBS account's situation publically is part of a political move to discredit Ilymzhinov in the international press, it is working. The question is, does it help to persuade Ilyumzhinov to abandon his re-election bid, or strengthen his resolve?

Andre Schulz contributed to this story

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Macauley served as the Editor in Chief of ChessBase News from July 2017 to March 2020. He is the producer of The Full English Breakfast chess podcast, and was an Associate Producer of the 2016 feature documentary, Magnus.

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