The International Boxing Association (Aiba), the governing body for amateur boxing, has appointed Gafur Rakhimov as its new interim president.
Rakhimov’s appointment was made following a one-day congress on Saturday held to replace Franco Falcinelli, who announced that he would step down to take on the role of executive vice-president.
Falconelli had been serving as interim president since November, when the Aiba executive committee backed the suspension of former president Ching-Kuo Wu in relation to accusations of financial mismanagement.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) suspended funding payments to Aiba in December amid concerns over the body’s governance and ordered it to provide a full report on how it will resolve its problems by the end of January.
The new appointment has caused controversy, with the Associated Press news agency reporting that the US Treasury Department has described Rakhimov as ‘having moved from extortion and car theft to becoming one of Uzbekistan's leading criminals and an important person involved in the heroin trade’. He has been linked to the crime group ‘Thieves-in-Law’, and is alleged to have supported their activities by ‘providing warning of law enforcement issues, arranging meetings, and addressing other problems’.
The US treasury department office of foreign assets control has also frozen Rakhimov’s assets in American jurisdiction.
According to UK newspaper the Guardian, sources within Aiba have defended Rakhimov, saying that he was ‘the victim of a smear campaign and had never been convicted of any crime’.
The IOC has responded to the latest appointment in a statement saying that it is ‘extremely worried about the governance in Aiba’. Its chief ethics and compliance officer will give a report to the IOC’s executive board meeting in South Korea this week before the board decides on ‘further measures’.
Rakhimov, who is Aiba’s longest-serving vice president, will lead the organisation in his new role for the next nine months until a scheduled election in Moscow. Aiba has said that his appointment was made according to its statutes which oblige the senior vice-president to fill any vacancy.
“We must work closely with National Federations [NFs] and with the International Olympic Committee to restore confidence in Aiba’s financial management and in its integrity,” said Rakhinov. “This means greater transparency and improved corporate governance of Aiba, together with independent audits that are conducted in the light of day and not hidden from the Aiba Executive Committee and NFs as happened last year.
“Now is the time for us all to unite,” he added. “Our greatest responsibility must be to the millions of fans around the world who love boxing and want to be inspired by world class boxing. We owe it to the fans to make boxing great again.”