UCI demands answers from Astana following criminal probe into paying agent

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This article originally appeared on Velo_News

The UCI has confirmed BikeNews that he is closely monitoring the situation in Astana Qazaqstan after being reported by this site that the team paying agent and individuals were under a criminal forensic investigation in Luxembourg.

The investigation focuses on allegations of misuse of corporate assets, breach of trust, fraud and possible money laundering in connection with the management of the team’s paying agent, Abacanto SA. The investigation was launched in 2021 based on an independent Deloitte report commissioned by Yana Seel, then director of Abacanto SA.

Now at Lotto-Soudal, Seel was concerned about the financial management of the paying agent with more than 500,000 euros paid in “consultant fees” to riders’ agents, 62,960 euros spent on watches that were not properly documented and 498,595 euros for the use of a private jet. between 2017 and 2018. The Deloitte report included other areas it considered “red flags” in a nearly 60-page document seen by BikeNews.

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The UCI said BikeNews that he was unaware of the Luxembourg investigation until information first emerged earlier this month, but the governing body confirmed that he immediately raised the matter with the ‘team.

“The UCI has not been informed in any way of the investigation which has been reported in the press,” the governing body said. BikeNews in an email.

“The UCI promptly requested information from the team and will require updated information in the event that the investigation leads to further prosecution. The UCI understands that the investigation is (or has been) directed against individuals as early as the filing of a denunciation by the financial manager of the Abacanto SA team. The UCI is monitoring this situation closely.”

Earlier this month, the team tried to play down the investigation. Alexandre Vinkourov, named throughout the Deloitte report and in a letter from Judicial police service in Luxembourg on July 8, claimed that, like the UCI, he only learned of the investigation through the media.

“To be honest, I learned this whole story from the press, and until then I was not aware of the details of this investigation,” Vinokourov said. BikeNews March 9.

“Apparently we are talking about some kind of legal procedure that was started a year ago, when another person was the general manager of Abacanto SA, while I was carrying out purely sporting duties until the summer 2021. Officially, after a break, I returned to work with the team in January 2022, so it is difficult for me to comment on anything on this matter.”

The break Vinkurov referred to came when he was suspended from the squad. He was later reinstated after the intervention of the Kazakh wing of the organization. Following Vinokourov’s return, co-sponsor Premier Tech withdrew from the team.

The fact that the UCI was unaware of the criminal investigation raises questions about the awarding of a WorldTour license to Astana and the protocols and controls followed during this process. The UCI would not respond directly to questions on this subject.

However, the UCI has confirmed that it is also monitoring the payment situation in Astana after BikeNews reported on March 11 that the Riders are still awaiting January and February salaries. At the time, the team blamed the heist on changes in government in Kazakhstan.

“The UCI is aware that there has been some delay in payments at the start of the season. The UCI is closely monitoring this situation with the team to ensure that it is resolved as soon as possible,” said the UCI.

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