DAKAR, Senegal (AP) — The son of the former head of world athletics denounced the corruption and money laundering charges against himself and his father on Monday and called their trial in France a “conspiracy” by the “Anglo-Saxons.”
Papa Massata Diack’s comments came at a news conference he called in their home country of Senegal two days before a verdict is expected in the trial.
Diack’s father, Lamine Diack, was president of the IAAF, now known as World Athletics, from 1999-2015. Papa Massata Diack worked under his father as a consultant for the athletics body. The two men are charged with corruption, money laundering and breach of trust, and are alleged to have used their positions to enrich themselves to the tune of millions of dollars.
Prosecutors say Lamine Diack directly or indirectly solicited 3.45 million euros ($3.9 million) in bribes from athletes, many of them Russian, to cover up their positive doping tests. He also used his authority to enable his son, who he employed as a marketing consultant, to siphon off millions of dollars from sponsorship deals, the prosecutors allege.
On Monday, Papa Massata Diack complained that the trial in June was held without him, yet he had refused to attend the proceedings having fled to Senegal in 2015 as charges were prepared. Senegal declined to extradite him after an international arrest warrant. The 87-year-old Lamine Diack did attend the trial and testified. His son was tried in his absence. They both denied the charges.
“I refused to come to the French courts because they lacked impartiality,” Papa Massata Diack said at the news conference in Dakar, where he wore a white robe. “To submit to French justice is to put myself at the disposal of my enemies.”
The younger Diack also said the French court had no jurisdiction to try him because the world athletics body was based in Monaco and the alleged offenses happened in Russia, Qatar, Senegal, Japan and Turkey. He denied taking any money illegally. Although he said he earned $10 million from his consultancy work at the IAAF, he said all of his money was “traceable.”
He called the charges against him “the biggest lie in the history of world sport” and said that, despite all the documents, there was no evidence against him and his father.
“The mountain gave birth to a mouse,” he said.
But Lamine Diack appeared to turn on his son at the trial when he testified that Papa Massata had “conducted himself like a thug” while at the IAAF.
The Diacks’ trial exposed how corruption was seemingly rife behind the scenes at the world body at a time when Usain Bolt was thrilling audiences and making athletics hugely popular.
Prosecutors alleged in the Paris court that top athletes paid millions of dollars in illicit payoffs to corrupt administrators led by Lamine Diack to cover up their doping. About two dozen Russian athletes were allegedly involved, with Russian marathon runner Liliya Shobukhova testifying that she paid 450,000 euros ($506,000).
Papa Massata Diack, who already earned $1,200 a day from the job his father gave him, is accused of personally profiting off sponsorship deals. One contract alone, with Russian bank VTB, allegedly enabled him to turn a profit of about $10 million, prosecutors said. World Athletics is hoping to recoup 41 million euros ($46 million) in lost revenues via the court.
The prosecutors have asked for a five-year prison sentence for Papa Massata Diack and a four-year sentence for his father, and fines of more than half a million dollars for both men.
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