Prosecutor chases IAAF scandal around the world

France's national financial prosecutor Eliane Houlette is looking for answers in the athletics doping scandal.
France's national financial prosecutor Eliane Houlette is looking for answers in the athletics doping scandal.PHOTO: REUTERS

MUNICH • Envelopes stuffed with banknotes, a Monaco account stashed with a small fortune and the son of a disgraced African sports baron on the run - a French prosecutor told on Thursday how athletics' doping scandal is turning into a round-the-world marathon.

Money from bribes suspected to have been paid by Russian athletes to cover up failed drug tests may have ended up in a Monaco bank.

And money paid back to one champion runner to secure her silence is suspected to have been channelled through a Singapore shell company.

Eliane Houlette, head of France's financial prosecution department, is looking for answers.

The Interpol global police association has issued an international alert for Papa Massata Diack, son of Lamine Diack, the former president of world athletics body now facing corruption and money laundering charges in France.

Diack's former legal adviser Habib Cisse and Gabriel Dolle, former anti-doping doctor for the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), also face charges over the doping bribes.

The financial trail is hot.

At Dolle's Cote d'Azur villa near Monaco, police found €87,000 (S$136,700) in cash. Houlette said that eight envelopes containing 50, 100, 200 and 500 euro notes were found.

Dolle is suspected of having accepted more than twice as much as bribes in all. He, Papa Massata Diack and Cisse are all banned from leaving France.

"All three have admitted that after 2011, the treatment of athlete biological passports for 23 Russian athletes were carried out in an abnormal way - without the Russian athletics federation or the international federation carrying out sanctions or suspensions," Houlette told a press conference after the presentation of a new report on the IAAF scandal.

They gave the excuse that they did not want "a big scandal" before the 2012 London Olympics that could influence talks with a sponsor and over television rights.

Monaco authorities have meanwhile frozen an account containing €1.8 million belonging to former Russian federation chief Valentin Balakhnichev.

An IAAF ethics report said Balkhnichev and the younger Diack were part of a ring that blackmailed athletes over doping failures.

Liliya Shobukhova, who won the 2012 London Olympics women's marathon before being uncovered, paid at least €450,000, according to the World Anti-Doping Agency inquiry.

But in 2014, a €300,000 payment was made to her manager by a Singapore company Black Tiding with close links to Papa Massata Diack.

Investigators suspect this was to obtain her silence over the bribes. Houlette said there were "good relations" with Russian investigators.

"We also count on the reactivity of the legal authorities in Singapore, whose help has also been requested," said the prosecutor.

"The length of the inquiry will depend on the speed of the answers given to the investigating judges."

She said it was possible other people were involved in the case.

The immediate focus could now turn to Papa Massata Diack. His father has paid €500,000 in bail but cannot leave France.

Houlette said the son is believed to be in his native Senegal.

She added that an international warrant was issued on Dec 17.

Papa Massata Diack is one of Lamine Diack's 15 children. He has already been banned for life by the IAAF.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 16, 2016, with the headline 'Prosecutor chases IAAF scandal around the world'. Print Edition | Subscribe