The investigation into controversial contracts and alleged financial irregularities at LEN enters a new phase.
Swiss police have seized documents in a raid on the offices of the European Swimming League (LEN) as part of an investigation into allegations of financial irregularities and “improper conduct” against the federation’s executive, the website State of Swimming (SOS) published today.
Officers from the Vaud Police searched the LEN offices in Nyon on Tuesday as part of an investigation being conducted by the Public Prosecutor of La Cote in the canton of Vaud, Switzerland. This canton is home to LEN, which is based in Nyon. FINA’s headquarters are also in this region (in Lausanne).
Three persons are involved in this controversial matter –LEN President Paolo Barelli, the general secretary David Sparkes, and Tamas Gyarfas, who was the treasurer until recent elections, held in November. All three are also current members of the ruling FINA Bureau.
The case became public last year. Bartolo Consolo, former president of LEN (from 1990 to 2008), started to investigate financial irregularity after an anonymous letter. He confirmed the existence of the controversial contracts between LEN and several companies.
After Consolo’s accusations, the LEN Leadership denied any wrongdoing, and that was accepted by the LEN Bureau members.
The matter ended up in the hands of prosecutors after Consolo, the Honorary FINA Board member, realized that his attempts to have matters resolved within LEN and FINA were blocked.
When the European Swimming League’s leadership didn’t start a “professional investigation inside the Bureau”, Consolo reported his findings to the Swiss and Italian prosecutors and two sports Ethics panels, including the in-house body at FINA.
An official investigation about alleged financial irregularities in LEN began in Switzerland and Italy in August.
The Italian Olympic Committee’s Ethics Panel also investigates the matter. FINA has yet to confirm whether it took any action, SOS reports.
Police in Vaud confirmed to SOS that:
“- an investigation has been opened into allegations of improper management against leaders of the LEN by the public prosecutor of the district of La Cote;
” on behalf of the prosecutor, a search was carried out by officers from the Security Police on Tuesday, March 16, at the headquarters of the European Swimming League. Documents useful for further investigations were seized.
Police Cantonale Vaudoise”
The Vaud police service said that there would be no further comment on the matter during the investigation.
State of Swimming asked the LEN for a comment. A spokesman of the European Swimming League responded:
“LEN has expected the authorities requesting information and documents earlier as it is part of the normal procedure. LEN’s legal team wishes to have the case processed as fast as possible in order to initiate legal actions to those who committed the real wrongdoing against LEN by making false accusations.”
The allegations were exposed in May in an exclusive investigation by SOS, the Frankfurter Allgemeine in Germany, The Sunday Telegraph in Australia, and The Times in London. A dossier seen by the reporting team asked serious questions of Paolo Barelli, David Sparkes, and Tamas Gyarfas.
The main part of allegations is a contract allegedly showing that Barelli, Sparkes and Gyarfas are signatories to a 2016 contract with an insurance company called Elevan, in which a percentage of broadcast-rights revenue is promised in return for securing an increase in fees. Registered in Italy as an insurance company, Elevan also received fees in 2016 and 2017 for “identification and assistance activity” related to a lucrative LEN sponsorship deal with insurer UnipolSai, records sent to prosecutors show.
Elevan was one of several ‘consultant’ companies receiving fees from LEN even though their identities and their role and purpose in LEN work were unknown to directors and the majority of the ruling LEN Bureau, the top table of European swimming, according to documents seen by SOS and information submitted to the investigation now underway.
It is alleged that some of these companies are owned by or closely linked to the LEN leaders, State of Swimming underlines.