Bank collapse, 'missing' official disrupt Russian sport

Publish date:

MOSCOW (AP) A bank collapse and the apparent disappearance of a top sports official decorated by President Vladimir Putin have caused further disruption to Russian sport, already reeling from its doping scandal.

The problems stem from the collapse of Vneshprombank, one of Russia's top 50 lenders, which was put into administration in December and had its license revoked a month later when the country's central bank said it had found signs of embezzlement.

Among the bank's account holders was the Russian Olympic Committee, which denied reports in local media that it has been unable to pay coaches ahead of the Rio Olympics in Brazil, starting Aug. 5.

''All the obligations that we have are being fulfilled and will be fulfilled,'' ROC spokesman Konstantin Vybornov told The Associated Press on Saturday.

In addition, the current whereabouts of International Bobsleigh & Skeleton Federation vice-president Georgy Bedzhamov are unclear. Bedzhamov is the brother of the president of Vneshprombank, Larisa Markus, who was arrested in December on suspicion of fraud, according to state-run news agency RIA Novosti. Bedzhamov has not been accused of any wrongdoing.

It is not clear whether the accusations against Markus are connected to central bank allegations that ''persons exercising control over the bank'' had stripped its assets and spent the bank's money on real estate, shares and ''expensive vehicles'' in Russia and abroad.

As well as being vice-president for communications at the IBSF, Bedzhamov is the president of the Bobsleigh Federation of Russia, which has effectively been leaderless since December. ''There continues to be no contact with the president of the federation,'' the BFR's secretary general Kirill Serikov confirmed to the AP on Saturday in comments sent by email.

Bedzhamov, who did not respond to emailed requests for comment, was hailed two years ago as one of the heroes of Russia's medal table-topping performance at its home Winter Olympics, with Russian bobsledders winning two gold medals. After the games, he was given the Russian state's Order of Honor by Putin.

The situation with Bedzhamov also complicates Russia's hosting of next year's world bobsled championships in Sochi, part of the city's Olympic legacy. The head of the IBSF, Ivo Ferriani, met with Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko earlier this month to discuss holding the championships without Russia's top official in the sport.

''IBSF has no doubts that the IBSF bobsleigh and skeleton world championships 2017 in Sochi will be another great event organized by BFR,'' IBSF secretary general Heike Groesswang told the AP by email.

The IBSF did not confirm whether it has had any contact with Bedzhamov in the last two months, but said he continued to hold office.