February 14, 2018 / 4:43 PM / 10 days ago

CORRECTED-World Chess Federation says Swiss accounts frozen over Syria sanctions

(Removes reference to “helping Syrian government buy oil from Islamic State” in Par 2)

ATHENS, Feb 14 (Reuters) - The World Chess Federation (FIDE) says its Swiss bank accounts have been frozen because its president - with whom the FIDE secretariat is embroiled in a power stuggle - is under U.S. sanctions for alleged dealings with the Syrian government.

Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, a Russian who has headed FIDE for over two decades, was placed under U.S. sanctions in November 2015, accused of aiding the Syrian government.

Ilyumzhinov, a millionaire businessman and ex-politician, has denied the accusations, and Interfax news agency on Wednesday quoted him as saying the bank accounts were not blocked.

“No one has blocked the UBS accounts, they are all active, I have checked recently. All events are taking place,” he was quoted as saying.

UBS said it could not comment on whether individuals or organisations were clients of the bank.

Last March, Ilyumzhinov accused FIDE of an attempted “revolution” to oust him by falsely announcing his resignation. He said he intended to serve his full term and would decide this year whether to run for re-election in September.

FIDE, whose secretariat is based in Athens, says it transferred presidential powers to Ilyumzhinov’s deputy in December 2015 though its website still lists Ilyumzhinov as president.

“The Swiss Bank UBS has announced that they will immediately close our accounts,” FIDE’s treasurer, Adrian Siegel, said in a Feb. 12 letter posted on its website.

“The white money strategy in Switzerland does not allow to do business with institutions or persons on the sanction list of the U.S. Department of the Treasury. Thus, it was only a question of time until we face this serious problem.”

Siegel said FIDE had so far been allowed to keep its accounts because Ilyumzhinov had informed FIDE on several occasions that he would soon be removed from the sanctions list.

“Kirsan Ilyumzhinov has unsuccessfully tried several times to be removed from this list and at the moment there is no hint at all that there will be a change,” Siegel said. (Reporting by Karolina Tagaris in ATHENS, Michael Shields in ZURICH and Maxim Rodionov in MOSCOW)

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