Boxing body hit by suspect accounting, bribery claims

NEW YORK • Under pressure by Olympic officials to address possible financial problems in his organisation, Wu Ching-kuo, the Taiwanese president of boxing's international governing body, last year ordered an investigation by the accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers.

The resulting report revealed irregularities so widespread that the auditors suggested the federation find a criminal lawyer.

It was unclear if the federation did so.

In fact, the existence of the report is not widely known because the president of the federation never released it, not even to the executive board that oversees him and the sport.

While portions of the report have been described by some news outlets, a full copy, recently obtained by The New York Times, reveals book-keeping shortfalls and raises questions about the management of one of the most prominent Olympic sports that was first contested in 1912.

The investigators focused on a US$10 million (S$13.9 million) loan in 2010 from a private company in Azerbaijan to help pay for a new boxing league in North America.

The loan was never paid back, and investigators could not account for how more than US$4.5 million of the money was spent.

The International Boxing Association, which is based in Switzerland and goes by the French acronym Aiba, could not say where the missing money went.

Some former Aiba officials noted that the loan coincided with an uptick in medals by Azerbaijani boxers. Since the loan was made, Azerbaijan has won nine medals, including four gold, at the three World Championships since 2010, up from four medals, without a single gold, before that.

Azerbaijani boxers won four medals in the past two Olympics, compared with three at the two Olympics before that.

Rudel Obreja, a former Aiba vice-president from Romania who was fired after alleging that boxing bouts at the Beijing Games in 2008 were fixed, called it "a very strange loan" that, based on his experience, could be explained only as a bribe.

"We boxing people know that Azerbaijan was very interested in boxing medals," he wrote in an e-mail to The New York Times.

Aiba also did not properly account for the losses on its books, possibly breaking the law.

These and other concerns led the investigators at PricewaterhouseCoopers to write, "It is recommended that legal counsel be sought by Aiba as the actions, and non-actions, of some of the directors may contravene" several articles in the Swiss Criminal Code.

Amateur boxing has long been considered rife with corruption, with frequent accusations of match-fixing, doping and outright bribery and fraud.

After the Rio Games in August, all 36 boxing referees and judges were suspended over questionable calls in matches there.

The 39-page investigative report, however - amplified by interviews with about a dozen current and former Aiba employees - is one of the fullest accountings of the sport's financial troubles, which critics suspect stem from corruption.

NYTIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 02, 2016, with the headline 'Boxing body hit by suspect accounting, bribery claims'. Print Edition | Subscribe