SINGAPORE - A Singaporean businessman has told a court here that he was told to lie, to hide a money trail linked to one of the biggest athletics doping cover-up involving one of Russia's biggest stars.
Tan Tong Han, owner of Black Tidings, said that Mr Papa Massata Diack, the son of disgraced world athletic chief Lamine who is wanted by Interpol, told him to give a fake story if he was questioned about certain transactions after news broke about a doping scandal in Russian athletics.
In that scandal, Liliya Shobukhova - once the second fastest female marathon runner in history - was blackmailed by officials for covering up her doping violations.
On Wednesday (Jan 16), the 36-year-old Tan was sentenced to a week's jail for giving false information to a Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) officer who was probing the flow of funds in and out of Black Tidings.
On March 27, 2014, about $548,000 was transferred to Black Tidings from a Senegal company known as Pamodzi Consulting, owned by former International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) marketing consultant Papa Massata Diack. Tan issued an invoice to Pamodzi for the money, and it gave a generic description of work done. But no such work was carried out.
The court heard that shortly after the fund transfer, Mr Diack told Tan to transfer $524,000, or about €300,000, to the bank account of Shobukhova's husband.
Tan and Mr Diack reportedly became friends in China at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
It was at the end of 2014 when the athletic world was rocked with revelations that senior figures in the athletic world had extorted money from Shobukhova to cover up violations in her athlete biological passport so that she could continue to compete, including at the 2012 London Olympics Games.
The scandal led to life bans from the sport for Mr Diack, Mr Valentin Balakhnichev, a former president of the All-Russia Athletics Federation and treasurer of the IAAF, and Russian endurance coach Alexei Melnikov.
Separately, in 2015, the CPIB started investigations. On Nov 5 that year, when Tan was asked to explain the transfers, he claimed the incoming sum was for work Black Tidings had done for Pamodzi for the 2015 IAAF World Championships in Beijing. Tan claimed this included making sure sponsor logos were printed correctly, setting up displays, organising press conferences and arranging transport.
As for the outgoing payment, Tan claimed he had been tricked by a John Pierre Bonor into making the transfer.
On Nov 20, he admitted he had lied, that Black Tidings did not do any work for Pamodzi and that John Pierre Bonor was a fictitious person.
Black Tidings has also been linked to allegations that the vote to hand the upcoming Olympics in 2020 was rigged. It is accused of receiving US$2 million (S$2.71 million) from the Tokyo team, money which the French authorities suspect was meant to bribe delegates.
Part of the money is believed to have gone to Mr Diack, whose father, an International Olympic Committee member at the time of Tokyo's bidding, held considerable sway over African Olympic votes.
The allegations continue to cast a shadow over Tokyo's preparations for the Olympics, despite the Japan Olympic Committee (JOC) having cleared its officials in 2016. It said the payment to Black Tidings was legitimate and had been made in return for consulting services.
Last month, JOC head Tsunekazu Takeda was placed under formal investigation in Paris for corruption. On Tuesday (Jan 15), he faced the cameras back home, denying the accusation. "I will fully cooperate with the French authorities in investigating this matter and do my utmost to prove my innocence," he said.
Tan, who was represented in court by Ms Diana Ngiam, meanwhile will start his jail term on Feb 20 after being allowed to defer it because of the Chinese New Year holiday.