World Chess Federation says Swiss accounts frozen over Syria sanctions

FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov was placed under US sanctions for allegedly aiding the Syrian government.
FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov was placed under US sanctions for allegedly aiding the Syrian government.

ATHENS: The World Chess Federation (FIDE) says its Swiss bank accounts have been frozen because its president, with whom the FIDE secretariat is embroiled in a power struggle, is under US sanctions for alleged dealings with the Syrian government.

Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, a Russian who has headed FIDE for over two decades, was placed under US sanctions in November 2015, accused of aiding the Syrian government.

Ilyumzhinov, a millionaire businessman and ex-politician, has denied the accusations, and Interfax news agency on Wednesday quoted him as saying the bank accounts were not blocked.

“No one has blocked the UBS accounts, they are all active, I have checked recently. All events are taking place,” he was quoted as saying.

UBS said it could not comment on whether individuals or organizations were clients of the bank.

“We can’t comment on whether individuals or organizations are clients of UBS. We follow all laws and regulations that are applicable to us,” UBS said.

Last March, Ilyumzhinov accused FIDE of an attempted “revolution” to oust him by falsely announcing his resignation. He said he intended to serve his full term and would decide this year whether to run for re-election in September.

FIDE, whose secretariat is based in Athens, says it transferred presidential powers to Ilyumzhinov’s deputy in December 2015, though its website still lists Ilyumzhinov as president.

“The Swiss Bank UBS has announced that they will immediately close our accounts,” FIDE’s treasurer, Adrian Siegel, said in a February 12 letter posted on its website.

“The white money strategy in Switzerland does not allow to do business with institutions or persons on the sanction list of the US Department of the Treasury. Thus, it was only a question of time until we face this serious problem.”

Siegel said FIDE had so far been allowed to keep its accounts because Ilyumzhinov had informed FIDE on several occasions that he would soon be removed from the sanctions list.

“Kirsan Ilyumzhinov has unsuccessfully tried several times to be removed from this list and at the moment there is no hint at all that there will be a change,” Siegel said.