Athletics: Papa Massata Diack slams corruption allegations over awarding of Olympic Games

Papa Massata Diack, son of former president of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) Lamine Diack, speaking during an interview with AFP in Dakar, on March 6, 2017.
Papa Massata Diack, son of former president of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) Lamine Diack, speaking during an interview with AFP in Dakar, on March 6, 2017.PHOTO: AFP

DAKAR (AFP) - Papa Massata Diack, son of disgraced former International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) chief Lamine Diack, slammed corruption allegations against him over the awarding of the 2016 Olympic Games to Rio de Janeiro as a "witch hunt", in an exclusive interview with Agence France-presse on Monday.

"Rio won fairly," Papa Massata Diack, who rarely speaks to the international media, insisted to AFP, as he refuted "in the most virulent manner" accusations made against him in the French daily Le Monde.

According to Le Monde, three days before the International Olympic Committee (IOC) awarded the Games to Rio, Brazilian businessman Cesar Menezes Soares Filho paid US$1.5 million (S$2.1 million) to Pamodzi Sports Consulting, the business of Papa Massata Diack, to favour the awarding of the Games to Rio.

At the time, Lamine Diack was president of the IAAF and a voting member of the IOC. Papa Massata Diack acted as a marketing consultant for the IAAF.

"This company was a client," said Pape Massata Diack of Soares Filho's Matlock Capital Group, slamming "unfounded accusations".

According to the newspaper, "magistrates suspect manoeuvres intended to buy the votes of IOC members at the time of the designation".

"There is an unworthy witch hunt created around this case, while the investigation is not credible, has not been done in a professional way and (is) contradictory," said Papa Massata Diack.

Diack and his father are both under criminal investigation in France, with Lamine Diack charged with corruption and aggravated money laundering. The French judicial investigation, which initially focused on corruption within the IAAF, was extended in December 2015 to the awarding of the 2016 Olympics to Rio and the 2020 Games to Tokyo.

Since December 2015, Papa Massata Diack has been placed on Interpol's list of most wanted persons after an arrest warrant was issued by France in connection with the prosecution of his father. He was last year banned for life by the independent IAAF ethics committee over corruption and cover-up allegations linked to Russian doping.

"They should come to Senegal to investigate and I can respond formally instead of organising leaks in the press," said Papa Massat Diack, who lives in Dakar as the Senegalese government has indicated he will not be extradited to France.

In the interview with AFP, Papa Massata Diack also deplored the treatment of his 83-year-old father, "taken hostage" by France.

"They don't even want to grant him temporary release. They want to make him crack psychologically," he said.

Another cited in Le Monde, Namibian sprinter Frankie Fredericks on Monday stepped down from an IAAF taskforce investigating Russian doping amid a corruption probe.

"I have decided to step aside from the taskforce so that the integrity of its work is not questioned due to the allegations made against me in Le Monde," the 49-year-old was quoted as saying in an IAAF statement. "It is important that the taskforce's mission is seen as free and fair with no outside influence."

Le Monde newspaper on Friday said that Fredericks, a four-time Olympic silver medallist, received nearly US$300,000 from Papa Massata Diack's Pamodzi company on the day Rio won the right to host the 2016 Games.

IAAF president Sebastian Coe has appointed Slovenian former high-jumper Rozle Prezelj to replace Fredericks, who denies any wrongdoing, on the taskforce.