Bad move: Chess drawn into Panama Papers scandal as two companies linked to governing body are named

Former world chess champion Russian Anatoly Karpov
Sunday Chess TV
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Former world chess champion Russian Anatoly Karpov CREDIT:  EMILIO MORENATTI/ EPA

The world of chess has been drawn into the Panama Papers scandal after two companies linked to its governing body and a legend of the game were named in the latest release.

Anatoly Karpov, the legendary world champion who reigned from 1975 to 1985 when he was defeated by Garry Kasparov, was listed in the leaked files of secret offshore companies as a director of a Cyprus-based company called Indiforth Ltd.

After retiring from the game, Karpov was elected a state deputy in Russia’s parliament, the Duma, for Putin’s party, United Russia, in 2011. He is also famous for being a keen philatelist with a stamp collection worth at least £10 million.

There is no suggestion of illegality and Mr Karpov has previously said he had nothing to do with business in the offshore zone and called allegations he was a mistake.

Two British Virgin Islands-based companies linked to the world chess federation FIDE, Chess News Agency and Chess Lane S.A., are also mentioned in the files.

Chess Lane was a small marketing business funded by the brothers Ziyavudine and Mohammed Magomedov from Dagestan and fronted by the Israeli businessman and FIDE’s CEO of Development David Kaplan.

In 2009 an agreement was drafted to grant it exclusive rights to FIDE’s commercial activities following a presentation by Mr Kaplan, who is also listed in the Panama Papers, to a steering committee meeting in Tromso, Norway.

FIDE and Chess Lane then set up Chess Network Company as a joint venture to attract sponsorship.

CNC’s website listed Anna Burtasova, a women’s grandmaster, as the chief strategy officer but made no mention of her marketing qualifications.

Chess star Bobby Fischer is seen in New York
Sunday Chess TV
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Chess star Bobby Fischer is seen in New York CREDIT: AP PHOTO/JOHN LENT

FIDE’s current commercial partner is a company called Agon Ltd. Agon has been granted long-term, exclusive rights to organise and commercialise the World Chess Championship and is not listed in the Panama Papers.

Again there is no suggestion of illegal dealings and Mr Kaplan and FIDE have not commented on the leak.

The late Bobby Fischer, considered by many to be the greatest chess player of all time, has already been named in a previous release.

The enigmatic Grandmaster, who died in 2008, was granted power of attorney over a company called Kettering Consultants Inc. in October 2007.

It gave him the ability to control the Panama-based company, which was managed by Landsbanki Luxembourg SA.

The game of chess is already reeling after the eccentric president of Fide, multi-millionaire businessman Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, was banned from the United States last year for his links with Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad.

He and a bank he part-owns, the Russian Financial Alliance Bank, were hit with sanctions by the US Treasury for “materially assisting and acting for or on behalf of the Government of Syria” as well as Syria’s Central Bank.

The former president of the semi-autonomous Russian republic of Kalmykia famously claimed he was abducted by aliens and has been in charge of the world chess federation, Fide, for 20 years.

Mr Ilyumzhinov, who celebrated 20 years in charge last year, denied the allegations.

But the sanctions mean he will face arrest if he tries to attend November’s world championship match in New York between Norway’s chess king Magnus Carlsen and Russian challenger Sergey Karjakin.

The data, collated by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), comes from the Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca. It is among more than 200,000 offshore account details went online at 7pm on Monday.

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