The results of the Deaf Sports Personality of the Year have been announced by UK based DSPY.
Held every two years, this well established event has been gaining more international coverage as more and more people go on-line for information. As well as recognition and support from UK Deaf Sport, the awards are also supported by European Deaf Sports Organisation and the International Committee of Sports for the Deaf.
Members of the Deaflympic movement are fully aware that their former president Valery Rukhledev (Valery) has been under house arrest since 2018 for embezzlement of funds at VOG. What has not been told until now is how this could impact in ICSD.
We reported here on Two Big ears in December 2014 that ICSD CEO Dimity Rebrov was found guilty of audiogram fraud whilst working for the Russian Deaflympic Committee. This was not an isolated incident as we will now share information reported by a Russian news agency Interlocutor.ru
In 2011, Russian Deaflympians and their coaches complained to their Ministry of Culture that the Russian Deaflympic Committee was demanding 10% of their Deaflympic medal winnings awarded from the state. 90% of the medals winners have refused to get involved with the ‘almighty extortionist‘ but the rest ‘have had their careers mercilessly ruined’.
As far as the Ministry of Sport are concerned the 10% donations are to help the development of other Russian athletes. But Interlocutor cites another new source “Novaya Gazeta” that ‘Rukhledev and the SKR (Russian Deaflympic Committee) earned over 1.8 million Euros from medals won at the 2009 Taipei Deaflympics and the Deaflympians and their coaches were complaining that no funds were being passed down to support athletes.
But all this is not the reason for Valery being placed under house-arrest.
So, Why is Valery Rukhledev under house arrest?
In January 2018, a criminal investigation was opened against Valery and four others for the embezzlement of 320 million roubles (£3.1m, US$4.05m, 3.4m Euro) belonging to the All-Russian Society of the Deaf (VOG). Valery co-defendants are a former lawyer of VOG and the former head of Finance at VOG. A fourth person was imprisoned for 3.5 years as her trial revealed that as a close friend and assistant of the VOG lawyer ‘between 2011 and 2014, she created and sought out controlled legal entities as fictitious counterparties of VOG LLC and its subsidiaries and managed their bank accounts, took actions to cash out founds obtained as a result of theft, took measures to conceal the crimes.’
But Where did this all start for Valery?
Natalia Metlina, a journalist and TV and radio presenter, Moscow City Duma (Council) Deputy and author of the book “My Mafia” wrote that Valery became the head of VOG in 2003 with the support of Caucasian criminal groups, whose money was used to bribe the heads of VOG regional branches 500,000 roubles each to approve the election of Valery.
Once he was in power, Metlina writes, that he surrounded himself with hearing assistants and rewrote the organisation’s charter in such a way that he became de facto owner. The criminal investigation has evidence to show that Valery became ‘the sole executive body of the company… having the right to dispose of the property of VOG entrusted to him by virtue of his position and make transactions on behalf of the company without additional approval’.
What would a Mafia stand to gain from putting money into Valery’s election campaign?
In 1926, VOG was created by the state to support Deaf people, it allocated buildings and factories. Deaf people had their own houses of culture, sanatoriums, rest houses and much more. VOG owned hundreds of buildings and plots of land throughout Russia. All this could be very useful to a Mafia. As well, in the 1990s, the state provided VOG with significant benefits on the importation of goods from abroad and it appears that the mafia used this to smuggle vodka, cigarettes and petrol into the country.
The investigation has been told that Valery was involved in a worked-out scheme of real estate, the buildings belonging to VOG throughout Russia were sold at bargain prices to the ‘right people’ and the difference between the price on documents and the real sale price was paid to Valery in cash. Those premises that could be rented out earned them another income.
The scheme also scammed state benefits. False names ‘dead souls‘ were used to claim state funds to pay for the fictitious use of sign language interpreters as well as organising fake jobs and selling equipment that should have been given to disabled people. grants given to renovate buildings also went into the ‘pockets of the president’s team’.
Amongst the evidence is one example of where VOG owned 100% shares in a company. The entire share were sold to another company for 500,000 roubles and then two months later the ownership of the company building was transferred over. It turns out that the building was worth 40 million roubles ‘There are dozens of examples throughout Russia’ According to another source in the report, it is calculated that over the 15 years under Valery’s management, VOG started out with 90 enterprises and this was reduced to 6. VOG still owns 191 buildings and 1 million hectares of land.
How much is Valery Rukhledev accused of making from all this?
The investigation suggest that Valery owns assets in Switzerland and the USA. His personal estate in Russia is estimated at half a billion roubles and twice as much again is in the names of other members of his family. In 2018, the Tverskoy Court of Moscow ruled to seize property belonging to his wife, as well as accounts, land plots and nine other properties that were in shared ownership.
Valery was eventually arrested when he tried to sell the central office of VOG for 1 billion roubles.
Rukhledev is still trying to hold on to power at VOG
Then Valery was placed under house-arrest in 2018, he was immediately replaced by Stanislav Ivanov as interim president. But despite the conditions of his arrest, on 3rd January 2018, Valery was able to issue a decree which cancelled Ivanov’s appointment and he was replaced by Alexander Kachergis, who according to reports is a protégé of Valery. It has been implied that the wording on the VOG website suggests that Kachergis is acting on the orders of Valery.
This is not the only time that Valery had violated his conditions and the investigators petitioned the Tversky Court to put him in a pre-trial detention centre because under secrecy he had arranged for visitors to meet him in his apartments and he still had access to the Internet and video-relay communications. So, for that, Valery spent some time in a detention centre cell before being released back under house-arrest where he will remain until 28 November 2020 with a ban on certain actions imposed by the court.
The next Congress of VOG will be held on the 12-14 November 2020. there are concerns that if Kachergis remains in position after the congress, then VOG will continue to remain as a pocket filling trough for the usurped power and thief unless the 76 regional branches and 878 local ones can find it amongst themselves to fight against this and stop the VOG being the personal wallet of Valery and be transferred back into an organisation designed to protect the interests of hundreds and thousands of Russian deaf people.
Does the shadow of Valery Rukhledev still hand over ICSD?
Having absorbed the magnitude of this information, members of ICSD might not help but wonder at the similarities they find in the ICSD where the Board has recently tried to remove Rebrov who was appointed by Valery. Looking further back, people might also wonder if similar methods of using stuffed envelopes in Valery’s 2003 VOG election might also have been used again in 2013 when he replaced Craig Crowley for the presidency of ICSD.
As we know, the VOG investigation suggests that Valery owns property in Switzerland and the ICSD (under the direction of Valery and Rebrov) were quick to move its assets to Geneva where ICSD uses Swiss law to govern its financial operations.
This week, ICSD have announced its intentions to hold an Extraordinary Congress in 2021. If members think that by voting in a new Board, they will win the support of the IOC and have their funding reinstated, they may need to reconsider.
They should also think about protecting ICSD from any potential criminal interference from within and outside itself by removing its Secretariat away from Geneva and officially disassociate itself from Russian management.
Members of the Deaflympic movement remain in the dark about who is in charge of their organisation and what is the progress on organising an Extraordinary Congress.
This week, Hungary and the Nordic and Baltic nations have written open letters to the ICSD asking the ICSD Board to organise an Extraordinary Congress.
The Nordic and Baltic Deaf Sports Federation which has representatives from seven nations (Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania) have been waiting patiently for positive developments from ICSD. They have now written a collective letter asking the ICSD Board and Secretariat to answer four questions:
How is ICSD being managed right now and is Dimitry Rebrov still employed by the organisation ?
How is the IOCs financial contribution to the ICSD progressing?
During the last Congress of Valtellina Valchiavenna, an extraordinary congress was promised. How has ICSD progressed with the work on this ?
It was agreed at the same congress that the Deaflympics and Congress should be held separately. How does ICSD relate to this?
They still hope that the 2021 Summer Deaflympics will go ahead because the athletes ‘should not be made victims because the board of ICSD cannot figure out how to cooperate.’
DEAF SPORTS AUSTRALIA HAS RESPONDED TO THE ICSD APPOINTED ADVISORS AND THE REGIONAL CONFEDERATION CHAIRS. INSTISTING ON URGENCY TO ARRANGE A VIRTUAL EXTRAORDINARY CONGRESS.
Kate Armfield, President and Phil Harper, General Manager of Deaf Sport Australia have written an open letter to all ICSD members:
“..Deaf Sport Australia fully supports the urgent need for an Extraordinary Congress (EC) – a suggestion we have recommended previously in recent emails.
We are very disappointed that the Board and the Executive team are dysfunctional and despite attempts to fix the problems, as shared by Adam and Donalda, they can only be solved at an EC. The future of ICSD is at risk.
We do not agree with the letter sent by the ICSD Regional Presidents – they do not have a mandate to make their recommendations or represent our independent views.
For an EC to be fully transparent, it requires co-ordination and meeting management from an eminent person outside of the ICSD.
We request an urgent EC managed online and conducted by an independent chair. We recommend an IOC representative to conduct the EC and support / information provided by Donalda in her role as honorary member of ICSD.
We agree to the following agenda items:
– approval of Deaf Sport Reform,
– approval of accredited financial audits from past 5 years
– election of the new Executive Board
We ask that all member countries fully support this urgent action.”
The key issue that is concerning members is the impartiality and transparency of the ICSD leadership. Croatia issued a short statement recognising Ammons and Kosa as independent and impartial actors. Australia is calling for an external organisation, perhaps the IOC, to oversee proceedings with Ammons advising.
Chairs of the Deaflympic Regional Confederations say that they have taken control of ICSD and will delay the Extraordinary Congress until 2021.
In a letter to all national deaf sport federations today, the four chairs of the Regional Confederations appear to have taken control of the unstable leadership situation of the ICSD.
The four regional confederations of ICSD are Asia Pacific, Africa, Europe and Pan America.
In an attempt to diffuse the tensions between the two rival leadership groups, they have declared that all members of the Executive Committee, who have split into two camps, will retain their positions until the Extraordinary Congress. This means that the Vice President of World Sport, Mr Perazzolo, will not be promoted to Interim President.
Not only have they removed powers form the Executive Committee, they have also overturned the decision to remove Dimitry Rebrov from his post as CEO and keep him in office ‘to maintain ICSD affairs‘ under the management of the Regional Chairs.
The letter also conflicts the resignation email message sent by former ICSD President Ms Ammons and former legal commissioner Mr Kosa (our earlier blog today). According to the Regional Chairs, the advisors were self appointed and not given direction by the Executive Committee to act as neutrals. Instead, the Regional Chairs claim that the advisors were ‘not allowed to get involved in current issues and discussion with them were stopped.’
The timing of the Ammons/Kosa email is interesting. Their email was received by ICSD members today – two hours before the letter from the confederation chairs. This could suggest that Ammons/Kosa knew its contents would be conflicting and may have decided to get their side of the story in first because the confederation letter is dated 14th October but not released until the 15th, giving Ammons/Kosa time to receive an alert and react.
What will surprise ICSD members is that the substitute leaders have insisted that an Extraordinary Congress cannot be held because of the coronavirus and they are now planning to hold the event in 2021. Many will see this as a stalling tactic and wonder why the meeting cannot be held virtually.
Some are likely to argue that 2021 is a Summer Deaflympic year and elections to appoint a new President can wait until next December when Congress meets one week before the Summer Deaflympics in Brazil.
There is no guarantee that the 2021 Summer Deaflympics will take place as the pandemic could restrict nations from competing and prevent delegates from attending Congress. Earlier this year many ICSD member countries asked for the games to be postponed or cancelled on health and safety grounds but the ICSD chose not to respond. If 50% of the membership are not represented, the Congress will not be quorate and an election cannot be held.
For several weeks now, leaders in the ICSD have been arguing amongst themselves in an attempt to maintain control of the Deaflympic movement. Today Donalda Ammons, Honorary ICSD member and Adam Kosa, member of the European Parliament announced their resignation as advisors to the ICSD. They have shared their decision by video message and their translation is available in full here.
To ICSD community,
Please see attached video statement made by Dr. Donalda AMMONS and Dr. Adam KOSA about ICSD.
“DA: Hello everyone! I am Donalda Ammons, retired university professor, former president of the ICSD, now honorary member of the ICSD and member of the Deaf Sport Reform commission. AK: Hello everyone! I am Adam Kosa, lawyer, former member of the ICSD Legal Committee, member of the European Parliament. DA: One month ago, we were shocked about president of ICSD, Kang Chen’s resignation, then some unclear announcements made by Dimitry Rebrov CEO, Gustavo Perazzolo VP, and members of the Executive Board – members- national sport federations are very confused until now. AK: Donalda and I received request from Executive Board to help them as advisers. We agreed and prepared some proposals. DA: I and Adam accepted their request. I as chief adviser and Adam as legal adviser. Important: we advise ONLY FOR ICSD, not for EB nor CEO/VP. AK: We made a clear and sustainable strategy for our advisory work, but before starting our effective work… DA: We requested written pledges from all stakeholders (VP’s, CEO, EB and president of 4 regional confederations) with same text for trustworthy cooperation.
AK: Sadly, after one month we receive only 7 pledges (include ours) – only from ICSD EB member at large and VP youth sports. No pledges from 4 regional confederation presidents, DA: and, no responses or reflections from Gustavo Perazzolo VP and Dimitry Rebrov CEO. After one month, we decided to step down as advisers for ICSD: we cannot work without trustworthy cooperation. We are very disappointed.
And now? We propose only one way: setting up an extraordinary congress as soon as possible in accordance to present pandemic situation with following agenda: approval of Deaf Sport Reform, approval of financial audits from past 5 years, election of the new Executive Board. AK: now ICSD has no clear leadership. We call all stakeholders – VPs, member of the EB and CEO – for cooperation to save our deaf world sport movement. DA: ICSD has a very rich past. We are very trouble about ICSD’s future. Dear Members- National Sport Federations, please cooperate and save ICSD!”
Members of the ICSD Executive Board are battling with each other for overall control after the resignation of their president.
In our last post we explained that the ICSD Executive Board had removed its CEO and also explained that their Vice president of World Sport was unable to succeed to the vacant post of president according to its constitution. Instead, Mr Kihtir, a member at large, was appointed as chairman to prepare for an Extraordinary Congress and ensure continued business.
Immediately, the interim Vice President Mr Perazzolo e-mailed to complain publicly and argue on a technicality that the minutes of the Board meeting had not been signed and that he had been “…grossly removed from the post of ICSD Vice President by these 4 members at large.”
He argued that a proposal from the four regional presidents had been ignored and felt that it had been an “usurpation of power by members that are ready for everything to keep their seat in the EB (Executive Board).”
What we have seen since then is an outpouring of letters from national Deaf sport organisations lending their support to either camp. The majority are supporting a motion put forward by America and Germany that the post of president should be left vacant and and the chairpersons of the Regional organisations should take control until the next Congress.
Yesterday, Mr Perazzolo sent round a video message and a letter (neither appeared to correlate). In his letter he is arguing that he has the right to sucession according to article 3.2.f in the ICSD Byelaws:
f. order of Succession.
In the event of vacancy for the office of President, the Vice president of World Sports will assume the presidency, and the Vice President of World Sport position then be selected by the Executive Board.
This appears to be a reasonable argument to uphold, but our investigations suggest that if people want to argue on technicalities then we understand from our sources, that Mr Perazzolo was interim Vice President World Sport in name only and the post was not ratified by the 47th Congress in December 2019. It has been suggested that when Mr Chan was formerly accepted as interim President, then Mr Perazzolo’s appointment should have been endorsed too – but this did not happen.
However, a draft copy of the 47th Congress (2019) Minutes issued in May 2020, states:
Mr Mather (attorney) pointed out that at the next Board meeting, they will pick a Vice President – World Sports until the next Congress in 2001.
The Hungarian Deaf Sport Federation, have written a letter, signed by their president Dr Gergely Tapolczai who has been an MP since 2010 and also a member of the European Parliament and Vice President of the European Union of the Deaf;
“…Considering the proposals and suggestions made by either the ICSD Office or either some ICSD members we have to notice, that none of the proposals would solve the critical situation or any of the problems what the community is currently facing.
We do think that under the current circumstances the only way in terms of good legal acting is the chance of an Extraordinary congress, what must be held in the shortest period of time what is possible, so the fact of the election of the new board could save and protect deaf sport family for keep moving forward.
For the upcoming time till the Extraordinary Congress and election,we strongly and definitely recommend to reduce and restrict the power of the current board to a simple and easily supervised operational level, to avoid any acts or decisions (financial or professional) to prevent further miscarriage acts.
Summarising the written above, we still believe that the only chance to solve this critical and unacceptable situation is a new election what the Extraordinary Congress could give us.”
The Executive Board of the International Committee of Sport for the Deaf has decided to act swiftly amidst recent controversy and remove Dmitry Rebrov from his position as chief Operating Officer.
According to a copy of the minutes, which appear to be genuine and circulated to all national deaf sport organisations, the following decisions have been made:
After accepting the resignation of Chen from the office of Interim President, Mr Yakup Umit Kihtir has been appointed as Chairman of the Board to ensure stability and continuity of ICSD activities and a continued smooth connection with the IOC.
An interim president has not been appointed because the ICSD Constitution does not allow it to happen at this time.
They have suspended Mr. Dmitry Rebrov, from duties as CEO due to unauthorised email correspondence which damaged the reputation of the ICSD due to some serious allegations that have been raised against him.
Rebrov has also been removed from signing any financial papers or access to bank accounts
Rebrov’s authorisation for access to all ICSD platforms including email, website and social media accounts has been shut down.
The Executive Board has decided that it will immediately begin hiring new staff to ensure continuity of activities.
The new chairman has been set the immediate task of arranging an Extraordinary Congress that will discuss the missing financial audits that have not been presented since 2018 and review the progress of the latest reform package as requested by Congress in December 2019. Congress will also elect a president since Mr Perozzolo, Vice President of World Sport is not eligible to be automatically appointed.
The ICSD (International Committee of Sport for the Deaf) has had a third president resign in less than two years.
From 1924 – 2018, the Deaflympic movement enjoyed a relatively strong and stable leadership under the steerage of nine presidents. With the exception of Eugene Rubens-Alcais (1924-1953) and Jerald M. Jordan (1971-1995) the other seven leaders have served an average of 5.8 years between them.
Since Valery Rukhledev resigned in 2018 under controversial circumstances alleging financial misconduct in Russia, there has been a very quick succession of substitutions. Rebecca Adam stood in temporarily until she was removed by the ICSD Executive Board in 2019 for reasons which remain unknown and was replaced temporarily by Vice President Kang Chen until formerly sworn in at the Winter Congress last December.
The surprise announcement on social media this week has come as shock to the Deaf sports community. The recent departures are not recorded on the news feed of deaflympics.com
President Kang Chen’s hasty departure comes immediately after he released a statement regarding the publication of allegations of criminal activity carried out over a number of decades by another ICSD Executive Board member who has personally denied the allegations against himself. The story deepens as he claims that his accuser is somebody impersonating his own brother who supposedly holds a grudge against him.
Chen’s statement (5th Sept) reads
This is to let you all know that ICSD conducted an internal review of the same situation about Mr. Grigor Grigoryan last July.
As a result, ICSD is satisfied with official documents provided to ICSD by the Armenian government and agreed to let Mr. Grigoryan to resume his ICSD responsibilities but on a condition that his situation be further reviewed by the ICSD legal Commission which is in process of being established soon.
By the way, intervening in domestic disputes is not within ICSD’s jurisdiction. What ICSD has done is to ensure it’s neutrality.
Kang Chen, President.
Email: The Truth about Grigor Grigoryan, sent to ICSD members 5th Sept 2020.
The allegations that were circulated to all ICSD national committees, technical directors and officers implied impropriety both inside and outside Deaf sport. The accuser has threatened to send his files to the IOC if the ICSD fail to take action. So everyone will have to wait and see if the threat is carried out depending on the ICSD Legal Commission’s decision that is expected soon.
The statement put out by the ICSD announcing Kang Chen’s resignation yesterday was short. It simply reads:
Mr Kang Chan just resigned his post as ICSD president effectively now due to personal reasons. we on the ICSD Executive Board wish him the best of luck in his future pursuit and really appreciate his outstanding contributions to the ICSD sporting community.
Deaflympics.com social media 8th Sept 2020
Whether true or not, the allegations of criminality, suggests that blackmail was apparently used to force Rukhledev to make decisions about Executive Board appointments. People are left wondering if they are witnessing the results of an internal a power-grab at the very top.
Whatever is going on, whatever becomes the truth, this news draws further controversy to the door of the ICSD who rely heavily on funding from the IOC which was withdrawn in 2018 and will not be reinstated until ICSD is able to satisfactorily meet governance and operational standards befitting an member of the IOC family.