Serbian delegate suspended after he "sold his vote to himself"

by Macauley Peterson
9/30/2018 – The FIDE Ethics Commission ruled this afternoon that the Serbian Chess Federation President is guilty of selling his vote as a delegate to the FIDE Congress. However, there was "absence of sufficient proof" linking the money to the Dvorkovich campaign. The case was seen as an important prerequisite to the October 3rd election at the General Assembly. Had Dvokovich been found guilty, he could have been suspended from the race, with no time to appeal to the Court of Arbitration and Sport (CAS) in Lausanne, Switzerland. | Pictured: Ethics Commission chair Francois Strydom (left) and member Ion-Serban Dobronauteanu at a hearing on September 28th | Photo: Niklesh Jain

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Still a "three-horse race"

It was a complaint that had the potential to derail the FIDE presidential election, but now is more likely to be relegated to a footnote. Today, four members of the Ethics Commission ruled in a majority vote that Arkady Dvorkovich is not guilty of violations under the FIDE Code of Ethics.

The Ethics Commission (referred to as ‘ETH’) in a decision (PDF) posted on the FIDE website, found Serbian Chess Federation President Dusan Cogoljevic "guilty of a violation of art. 2.1 of the Code of Ethics (offer and acceptance of consideration with a view of influencing election into FIDE office)." As a result, Cogoljevic and the Serbian Federation are suspended for six months from “any participation in FIDE meetings, in particular, the General Assembly meeting and Presidential elections”. The complaint from the Makropoulos campaign, therefore, has the rather limited effect of removing the voting rights from a lone delegate that could have gone to Dvorkovich.

Dvorkovich

Dvorkovich (right) looking upbeat with his legal team at Friday's hearing | Photo: Niklesh Jain 

What was the case about?

The former Serbian delegate Goran Urosevic, a Makropoulos supporter, alleged that the Serbian Federation President Dusan Cogoljevic (pictured below) surreptitiously replaced him with an alternate delegate who would support the campaign of Arkady Dvorkovich after receiving what amounts to a bribe.

Dusan CogoljevicOn August 1st, Urosevic says, a meeting took place in Belgrade involving Dvorkovich aids Berik Balgabaev and Willy Iclicki with the SCF President Cogoljevic and his advisor and translator Nebojsa Baralic, and organised by the Russian Embassy. Cogoljevic was seeking funding prior to the Olympiad of €40,000, an amount sufficient to cover various debts due FIDE. The "sponsorship money" should have come from one of a handful of Russian companies operating in Serbia, according to Urosevic's account of a phone call he had with Cogoljevic.

Balgabaev is the long-time assistant of Kirsan Ilyumzhinov who operated FIDE's now-closed Moscow office and has been a fixture of FIDE politics and event planning throughout Ilyumzhinov's tenure as FIDE President.

Iclicki is a Belgian-born FIDE arbiter and organiser who has also been active in FIDE politics for decades and has served as FIDE Treasurer, an auditor for the European Chess Union and as ECU President Zurab Azmaiparashvili's campaign manager.

Urosevic says he cautioned Cogoljevic against any agreement with Russian sponsors, even though the SCF President denied that there were any strings attached to the offer, such as suggesting that the Serbian delegate be changed. A few days later, in a second call, Cogoljevic told him, "I dumped the Russians" and that he was instead negotiating with a local insurance or betting company seeking a similar package of sponsorship. But there was a catch: This new sponsor wanted Cogoljevic himself to serve as the Serbian delegate.

Urosevic expected to discuss the matter further at a Serbian Federation board meeting on August 18th, but the day after the call, Cogoljevic sent a letter to FIDE requesting that Urosevic be replaced as the delegate in favour of himself. It is common for a federation President to serve as delegate to the FIDE Congress, but only in cases where no other delegate has been assigned, appointed or elected. Urosevic was the Serbian delegate since February 2016, and the delegate is ordinarily elected by the eleven-member board.

At the subsequent board meeting on the 18th of August, Cogoljevic repeated his earlier story about the unknown local sponsor, which Urosevic regarded as a way to conceal the true source of the funds.

On August 27th, Cogoljevic disclosed the existence of a sponsorship agreement signed by Cogoljevic with the Faculty of Business Economy and Entrepreneurship (known as PEP) which he himself founded.

According to a copy of the contract — which was reviewed by ChessBase — the "first instalment" due upon signing the contract was for 1,175,000 (one million one hundred seventy-five thousand) dinars, or about €10,000 euro, with an additional €10,000 euro equivalent due on September 30th, followed by monthly instalments of roughly €2,000 euro to follow at the end of each of the next ten months — approximately €40,000 in total. In the same meeting, the board gave their consent for Cogoljevic to serve as the Serbian delegate to the FIDE Congress.

The sponsorship contract, now in effect for over a month, notes that the PEP logo and website link should be added to the Serbian Chess Federation's website. As of September 30th, no such link or logo is evident at serbiachess.net.

How did ETH decide?

Four members of the commission ruled on the matter: the chair Francois Strydom, Ion-Serban Dobronauteanu, Pedro Dominguez Brito and Rajesh Hari Joshi. Willy Iclicki is a fifth member of the Commission, but he was recused from the case (Ethics case no. 5/2018 — one of several cases under review today by the commission) on the basis that he is personally implicated in the complaint and was a witness in the proceedings. He is participating in the remaining cases before ETH being decided today.

Ethics Commission

The five-member Ethics Commission, prior to Mr. Iclicki (second from right) being excused on September 28th | Photo: Niklesh Jain

Outside the meeting room at the Sheraton Batumi Hotel , immediately following deliberations on "Makropoulos v Dvorkovich et al", chairman Strydom said that Cogoljevic was sanctioned because he "sold his vote". Asked to whom he sold his vote, he replied, "he sold it to himself", but he declined to comment further.

The decision is a win for the Dvorkovich campaign, which had sought to delay the ETH process in the run-up to Friday's hearing. Specifically, Mr Dvorkovich requested on September 18th that a decision on the merits of the case should be postponed until after the Batumi Congress. Then on September 24th — ETH notes in its decision — Mr Dvorkovich challenged the jurisdiction of the commission in the case, on the grounds that Dvorkovich is neither a player nor an official in FIDE, and is therefore not subject to the FIDE Code of Ethics in the first place. Chairman Strydom ruled on September 26th that Dvorkovich "is subject to the Code of Ethics as a participant in a FIDE event, namely the Presidential elections forming part of the [FIDE] Congress, and that the ETH may exercise jurisdiction over him".

Dvorkovich then called for the recusal of Ion-Serban Dobronauteanu from ETH — which would have had the effect of denying the panel a quorum under its procedural rules, rendering it unable to function — but the panel rejected that application "for a lack of merit".

The decision notes that ETH "heard the evidence and cross-examination of the following witnesses: Mr Boris Kutin, Mr Miodrag Rakic (by telephone), Mr Goran Urosevic, Mr Rajai Al-Susi and Mr Dusan Cogoljevic", however the evidence was heard in closed session and the contents of the official testimony has not yet been disclosed.

The critical part of the decision reads as follows:

Mr Dvorkovich is found not guilty on the complaint levelled against him under case no. 5/2018 for alleged violations of art. 2.1, 2.2.1, 2.2.2, 2.2.3 and 2.2.11 of the Code of Ethics on the basis of the the absence of sufficient proof, at the level of the ETH’s comfortable satisfaction, of an involvement by Mr Dvorkovich or his representatives in the substitution of the delegate for the Serbian Chess Federation and the conclusion of the sponsorship contract FIDE Ethics Commission between the Serbian Chess Federation and Mr Cogoljevic’s educational institution".

"Comfortable satisfaction" is a common standard of proof applied by the Court of Arbitration and Sport (CAS) which governs international sporting disputes. It is similar to "balance of probabilities", also termed "preponderance of the evidence" and represents confidence of guilt upwards of 50%.

"Mr Cogoljevic’s educational institution" refers to the PEP, of which he is the founder.

Makropoulos

Makropoulos (center) with his counsel at Friday's Ethics hearing | Photo: Niklesh Jain

The bottom line

If the cash-strapped Serbian Federation does, in fact, receive a new infusion of funding, it will not be as a consequence of their new delegate's vote for either side in Wednesday's election, since he will not be voting.

The rulings may still be appealed to the CAS in Switzerland, however any such action would only take place after the election at the General Assembly.

The Makropoulos campaign sees this incident as the tip of the proverbial iceberg, and representative of more endemic influence peddling, or worse.

The Dvorkovich campaign denies any wrongdoing and contends that the actions of Dvorkovich allies are part of normal campaign activity.

Following the ETH decision, Urosevic, who has served as acting FIDE Press Officier, among other roles, was hoping to mend fences:

Links




Macauley is Editor in Chief of ChessBase News in Hamburg, Germany, and producer of The Full English Breakfast chess podcast. He was an Associate Producer of the 2016 feature documentary, Magnus.
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fons3 fons3 10/2/2018 03:53
@ bbrodinsky: Wrong for multiple reasons.
1) It's not the Russions who're pushing this #MeToo stuff.
2) And actually if Short wins it's more likely that he'll use Dvokovich, they've already indicated that they're willing to cooperate.
bbrodinsky bbrodinsky 10/1/2018 08:14
I assume that if Nigel wins, the Russians will consult the #MeToo movement and surely come up with something....
calvinamari calvinamari 10/1/2018 07:06
Oh, this is rich. I'm sure Makro is shocked--shocked!-- to know that votes can be bought and sold.
KevinC KevinC 10/1/2018 01:36
@fons3, why only titled players? How about any FIDE-rated player.

On a separate note, this is why Nigel is the only reasonable choice: He is the least-likely to be corrupted.
KingZor KingZor 10/1/2018 12:25
Not only did he sell the vote to himself, but he probably scalped the price and ripped himself off.

Go Nigel.
RossA RossA 9/30/2018 08:33
Reminiscent of Alfred Fall, a Cabinet Secretary convicted of accepting a $385,000 bribe...in 1920s...the Teapot Dome scandal...from no one! One businessman was tried but acquitted.

I have looked for evidence that this was ome of the origins of the term “fall guy” without any luck.
RayLopez RayLopez 9/30/2018 08:32
How do you sell a vote to yourself? The right hand doesn't know what the left hand is doing?
fons3 fons3 9/30/2018 08:11
If they had kicked Dvorkovich out everybody would have recognized this as a political maneuver and the danger would have been that this would benefit Short.

So instead they settle for damaging his reputation.


Personal opinion and food for thought: all of this delegate voting nonsense and possible corruption can be eliminated ENTIRELY with a form of direct democracy: every titled player gets to vote.


http://cleanhands4fide.org/
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