Iran swim chief denies ties to financial scandal

BUDAPEST (AFP) - Iran's swimming federation president denied on Thursday (July 20) allegations of links to a financial scandal that has drawn in swimming's governing body Fina days before both their presidential elections and the start of the swimming world championships in Budapest.

Mohsen Rezvani was accused Wednesday (July 19) by Kuwait's Husain Al Musallam of involvement in a bid to discredit the latter's unopposed candidacy for Fina's first vice-president position at an election Saturday.

"All the allegations made in my regard and of my Federation made by (Musallam) are totally unfounded and completely false," Mohsen Rezvani said in a statement sent to AFP.

In a tape recording reported Wednesday by The Times and Germany's Speigel Online, Musallam, in his role as general director of the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA), appeared to demand a 10 per cent cut of potential sponsorship deals.

The 57-year-old is heard allegedly asking a prospective Chinese marketing agent for 'commissions' on deals worth "40 to 50 million" dollars, that should be separately channelled to him.

Rejecting the allegations, Musallam told the website that he referred to payments to the OCA rather than him personally.

He said the report was part of an effort to undermine his hitherto likely election to the vice-president position.

According to Musallam, Rezvani contacted him three years ago and said the recording was held by the Iranian secret police who would return it if the Kuwaiti travelled to Iran to meet them.

But Rezani said Thursday that he had "never either discussed or negotiated with (Musallam)" or any other person whether on his behalf or not with regards to the mentioned recording or any other matter whatsoever".

Ahead of their elections in Budapest and Sunday's start of swimming action at the world championships in the Hungarian capital, FINA said "there was no breach" of their regulations.

The OCA also denied any wrong-doing on Musallam's part and questioned the timing of the articles.

"All money for sponsorship deals went directly to the OCA," it said in a statement.

The tape is "being used in a politically motivated campaign" ahead of the FINA elections, it added.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) told The Times and Spiegel that it had passed the allegations to its chief ethics investigator.