Envelopes stuffed with banknotes, a Monaco account stashed with a small fortune and the son of a disgraced African sports baron on-the-run, a French prosecutor told Thursday how athletics’ doping scandal is turning into a round the world marathon.
Money from bribes suspected to have been paid by Russian athletes to cover up failed drug tests may have ended up in a Monaco bank. Money paid back to one champion runner to secure her silence is suspected to have been channeled through a Singapore shell company.
Eliane Houlette, head of France’s financial prosecution department, is looking for answers.
The Interpol global police association has issued an international alert for Papa Missata Diack, son of Lamine Diack the 82-year-former president of world athletics body now facing corruption and money laundering charges in France.
Diack’s former legal advisor Habib Cisse and Gabriel Dolle, former anti-doping doctor for the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) also face charges over the doping bribes.
The financial trail is hot.
At Dolle’s Cote d’Azur villa near Monaco, police found 87,000 euros ($93,000) in cash.
Houlette said that eight envelopes containing 50, 100, 200 and 500 euro notes were found. Dolle is suspected of having accepted more than twice as much as bribes in all.
Dolle, Diack and Cisse are all banned from leaving France.
“All three have admitted that after 2011 the treatment of athlete biological passports for 23 Russian athletes were carried out in an abnormal way — without the Russian athletics federation or the international federation carrying out sanctions or suspensions,” Houlette told a press conference after the presentation of a new report on the IAAF scandal.
They gave the excuse that they did not want “a big scandal” before the 2012 London Olympics that could influence talks with a sponsor and over televisionn rights.
Monaco authorities have meanwhile frozen an account containing 1.8 million euros ($2 million) belonging to former Russian federation chief Valentin Balakhnichev.
An IAAF ethics report said Balkhnichev and the younger Diack were part of a ring that blackmailed athletes over doping failures.
Liliya Shobukhova, who won the 2012 London Olympics women’s marathon before being uncovered, paid at least 450,000 euros ($490,000), according to the World Anti-Doping Agency inquiry.
But in 2014 a 300,000 euro payment was made to her manager by a Singapore company Black Tiding with close links to Papa Missata Diack. Investigators suspect this was to obtain Shobukhova’s silence over the bribes.
Houlette said there were “good relations” with Russian investigators.
“We also count on the reactivity of the legal authorities in Singapore, whose help has also been requested,” said the prosecutor.
“The length of the inquiry will depend on the speed of the answers give to the investigating judges.”
She said it was possible other people were involved in the case.
The immediate focus could now turn to Papa Missata Diack. His father has paid 500,000 euros in bail but cannot leave France.
Houlette said the son — “implicated by several people” — is believed to be in his native Senegal. She added that an international warrant was issued on December 17.
“Summoned by investigators he has refused to present himself,” said the prosecutor.
“He has told the press he will not answer the French summons.”
Lamine Diack often said that “athletics is a big family” but as mounting evidence suggests he meant himself and his son the family’s standing has taken a battering in Senegal.
Pape Massata Diack is one of Lamine Diack’s 15 children. Along with Balakhnichev and former Russian walking coach Alexei Melnikov he has already been banned for life by the IAAF.
Lamine Diack is a former mayor of the capital, Dakar, and national assembly member. He was the first non-European elected as head of world athletics in 1999.
As a respected international sports leader he spoke out against the demolition of a stadium in his home district of Dakar. Last year Diack senior was the backer of a wrestling bout in the city with a presentation staged next to the national monument in Dakar.
Since the charges were made he has disappeared from view. The words of wisdom that he previously gave to the Senegalese media have dried up.
“He was presented as a shining white knight and at the finish line has been found out to be the Godfather of a kind of Senegalese mafia,” Le Temoin newspaper said in a recent editorial.
Diack has had to resign as an honorary member of the International Olympic Committee, a prestige title for barons of international sport.
The younger Diack quit his post as an IAAF consultant in December 2014 following accusations that he asked for $5 million to promote Doha’s bid to stage the 2017 world athletics championships. – Agence France-Presse