FIDE treasurer Prof. Dr. Adrian Siegel writes to me
UBS, FIDE and Siegel: Realpolitik?
Prof.Dr. Adrian Siegel, the former president of the Swiss Chess Federation and today the FIDE treasurer, is no stranger to controversy. He first jumped into the public limelight late last year at the 88th FIDE Congress in Turkey when he drafted a controversial but non-binding motion to ‘request’ Kirsan Ilyumzhinov not to run in the 2018 FIDE presidential elections:
“FIDE Executive Board requests Kirsan Ilyumzhinov not to run in the next Presidential election”
LINK to minutes of FIDE Congress
Though the motion passed, many questioned the real intent and underlying political motives behind Siegel’s motion. It only served, it was argued, to make FIDE even more divisive than ever. Besides, Siegel’s motion added to Kirsan’s problems (he had been sanctioned by the US Treasury since 2015) without creating any constructive solutions or alternatives for FIDE’s future.
More recently, February 13 to be precise, Prof. Dr. Adrian Siegel once more jumped into the limelight when he published a highly incendiary letter that went viral and resulted in widespread confusion, misunderstanding and even more bitterness within FIDE.
The dust has not yet settled from this lastest provocation , but calls for Siegel’s resignation from many corners of the international chess community have been heard.
Readers might be interested to review my own opinions expressed here on this blog. Unlike many, I waited several days after Siegel’s February 12 letter, when it began to become evident that things were not nearly as clear as Siegel had wanted everyone to believe:
Siegel writes to me to clarify his situation
I am grateful to Prof. Dr. Adrian Siegel for recently taking the time to contact me and provide me with a number of documents that remove any doubts about his professional reputation and integrity, and to help clarify any confusion and misunderstanding that may have resulted from his February 13 letter.
Before I present the main body of his letter to me (I will provide below a link to the pdf of the entire letter) I want to say that I have seen some of the relevant correspondence between UBS and FIDE, and there is absolutely no doubt that UBS intends to soon fully close the FIDE bank account. (Prof.Dr. Siegel has asked me not to make these documents public because of the sensitive nature of the subject).
(Note: The yellow marker is my emphasis)
February 25, 2018Dear Kevin
In the last days I was confronted with personal attacks by some would-be friends of chess. Thus, I was accused of being a liar (see twitter from Silvio Danailov) and others claimed that I have mislead readers by saying that our accounts have been ‚frozen‘. Moreover, Kirsan Ilyumzhinov stated that he was not sanctioned for conducting oil deals involving ISIS. Then, some journalists alleged that I have admitted that I have made a mistake by saying that all was a misunderstanding.Now, please let turn back time and look at the facts:
(i) I have never said that our accounts have been frozen (read carefully my letter dated February 12, 2018). The word ‚frozen‘ was raised by some newspapers and online media. Therefore, I don’t think that I can be blamed for misunderstandings by others.
(ii) I pointed out that these misunderstandings have been done by others (see my 2nd letter dated February 15, 2018). This statement was then wrongly used by some journalists who insinuated that I have admitted that all my statements have been a misunderstanding. It is surprising how people can’t or don’t want to understand clear statements.
(iii) Furthermore, I was accused of having no proof for my statement that UBS will immediately close our accounts. In a letter dated January 5, 2018 UBS clearly announced „we herewith terminate the above mentioned business relationship with immediate effect ….“.
Thus, I would appreciate if someone could tell me what FIDE‘s treasurer should have done in such a situation. First, we tried to convince UBS that they will give us more time or even that we can stay with them. They accepted to postpone the closure until the end of April but they were not willing to keep us. In my position of treasurer I have decided to inform the different federations, the Presidential Board and the Executive Board about such an important procedure.
I am afraid that the same people who accuse me now for my transparent information would accuse me if I haven’t informed the chess community.
I can understand that some people would like to see the original letter. However, we have kept it back since we are still in the process to find a new bank and I considered a publication as counterproductive. I can only strongly ask you for your understanding in this issue.
(The entire letter can be downloaded HERE)
My take on Siegel’s letter
First, I want to state for the record that I consider Prof. Dr. Adrian Siegel to be honest and sincere in his actions. I have no doubt that the underlying motivation for his actions is not anything personal against Kirsan, but is instead for what Siegel believes to be the best interests of FIDE. Realpolitik.
HOWEVER, I have an objection with Siegel’s dismissal of any personal responsibility for the confusion and misunderstanding that resulted from his February 13 letter. I don’t accept his explanation that because he never wrote that the FIDE bank account was ‘frozen’ he can not be ‘blamed’ for the ‘misunderstandings by others’
Link to NYTimes article
News outlets that also emphasized that the FIDE accounts had been frozen: The Telegraph, The Independent, Bloomberg, Reuters, SwissInfo, Tribune de Geneve, World News, Le Monde, Kurdistan24 , and many, many others.
How can so many respected international news outlets get it wrong? And Prof. Dr. Adrian Siegel throws petro onto the fire by writing in typically provocative style ”It is surprising how people can’t or don’t want to understand clear statements.”
Propaganda or manipulation of the facts by Siegel ?
After having read everything that Siegel has written, and especially with the correspondence between UBS and FIDE on the bank closure issue (which I can not publish), it is my opinion that Siegel’s letter of February 13 spins a number of half-truths that may have, intentionally or unintentionally, lead to respectable international news outlets to (mis)understand that UBS had infact frozen the FIDE account.
And Siegel continues this spin in his letter to me. While he quotes part of the letter from UBS from January 5 of this year („we herewith terminate the above mentioned business relationship with immediate effect ….“.) he has taken it completely out of the context which UBS intended it to be understood!
I have read this letter from UBS and, not wanting to disclose it, I can never the less confirm that the letter had 5 paragraphs, from which the very first contained the above quotation by Siegel. The next 3 paragraphs qualify and precisely explain in language that even a child can comprehend that UBS had not frozen the account and that FIDE had a grace period of several months before all transactions would end.
Prof.Dr. Adrian Siegel left out from his February 13 letter this small point that UBS had meticulously and painstakenly explained. (Infact, one can even conclude that this forms the crux of the January 5 letter!)
Surely had Siegel included this in his February 13 letter then the NYTimes, Bloomberg and dozens of other news outlets could not have concluded that the accounts were ‘frozen’.
NEXT, the UBS letter of January 5 , as well as of February 20 – which Siegel also provided me – never once mentioned the word ‘sanctions‘. Ofcourse, it is understood by everyone it is Kirsan’s problems with US sanctions that is the underlying issue here.
The truth is that banks don’t need to be unnecessarily insensitive when dealing with unpleasantness. UBS just referred to Section 18 of the bank’s contract with FIDE and invoked it:
18: Termination of the business relationships Either the client or UBS shall be entitled to terminate any existing busi-ness relationships with immediate effect and to terminate or call in any credit facility approved or drawn down unless otherwise agreed to in writing. If the client, after an appropriate grace period granted by UBS, fails to notify UBS where to transfer the assets and credit balances held with UBS, UBS shall be entitled to either deliver the assets physically or to liquidate them. UBS may, with the effect of discharging all its obliga-tions towards the client, deposit the proceeds and any credit balances at the place designated by a court or may send a check to the client’s last known address
(Readers might be curious to find out that Bobby Fischer, in 2005, was also in a similar situation with UBS, which wanted to close his bank account. Fischer had slightly less than $3 million in UBS. The complete archive of communication between Fischer (and/or his legal representative) and UBS can be seen HERE. Despite being asked dozens of times for UBS to give a precise explanation for closing the account, UBS always quoted the 2005 equivalent of Section 18 reproduced above!)
IN CONCLUSION, Prof. Dr. Adrian Siegel, FIDE treasurer, did NOT lie about UBS’ intention to close the FIDE bank account. But being a shrewd politician (Realpolitik) he manipulated the UBS information that was being offered in his February 13 letter, excluding what he felt was necessary and helpful to make his case and including something that never even once appeared in any of UBS’ written communication with FIDE.
MSM ate it all up and – naturally – got it all WRONG! As Siegel, no doubt, hoped it would. The mere mention of ‘Section 18’ by Siegel could have prevented it all because MSM-lawyers know what ‘Section 18’ is!
Ofcourse, this is just my opinion, but I fully understand and appreciate Siegel’s position. I just hope that the next time Prof. Dr. Adrian Siegel wants to get into the limelight it will be associated with something positive.