Published: Wed, February 14, 2018
Sport | By Wilson Duncan

World Chess Body Accounts Closed Over President's Syria Sanctions

World Chess Body Accounts Closed Over President's Syria Sanctions

The World Chess Federation (FIDE) says its Swiss bank accounts have been frozen because its president - with whom the FIDE secretariat is embroiled in a power stuggle - is under USA sanctions for alleged dealings with the Syrian government.

Swiss-based UBS closed the federation's bank accounts after it failed to depose the chess body's president, Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, a Russian millionaire and one-time member of Vladimir Putin's inner circle, The Times reports.

Ilyumzhinov, who was once part of Vladimir Putin's inner circle, was placed on a United States wanted list in November 2015 for allegedly being involved in oil deals which left a financial trail to the terror group ISIS via the Syrian government.

He has repeatedly denied the allegations and claims to be the victim of a USA effort to remove him.

Lausanne-based Fide's treasurer, Adrian Siegel, acknowledged the issue was "a serious problem" that had "severely damaged" the organisation's business dealings.

"Kirsan Ilyumzhinov's problems severely damage FIDE's business activities and we have to look for a new bank connection, ' the letter added, describing the situation as a 'serious problem".


Ilyumzhinov was added to a United States Treasury Department sanctions list in 2015 for "materially assisting and acting for on behalf of" the Bashar al-Assad regime. However, in 2015 Ilyumzhinov was stripped of his financial, commercial and legal duties, with responsibilities handed over to Deputy President Georgios Makropoulos, according to the letter.

UBS told The Telegraph that it does not comment "on whether individuals or organizations are clients of UBS", but that it follows "all laws and regulations that are applicable to us".

Mr Ilyumzhinov said the claims were part of a "smear campaign related to a power struggle" at the organisation ahead of the elections later this year.

Mr Ilyumzhinov has denied the accusations, and Interfax news agency quoted him as saying the bank accounts were not blocked.

"In the process of this change we anticipate some problems", Siegel said in the letter. David Kramaley, founder of chess learning site Chessable.com, said: "This kind of turmoil at the top of chess has got to stop for the good of the game".

Ilyumzhinov, an eccentric former politician who claims he was abducted by aliens twice, has reigned as the king of chess for 23 years.

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