President of the International Biathlon Union and Former Norwegian biathlon champion indicted for taking bribes from Russia

President of the International Biathlon Union and Former Norwegian biathlon champion indicted for taking bribes from Russia

17 Apr 2023 ( The Guardian )

The former head of biathlon’s governing body has been charged with “gross corruption” following allegations he accepted bribes, prostitutes and free hunting trips from Russia.

Anders Besseberg, who was president of the International Biathlon Union for nearly 26 years, is also accused of receiving several expensive watches between 2009 and 2018 along with a leased BMW X5 car. If convicted Besseberg could face 10 years in prison.

The charges follow a three-year investigation by Økokrim, Norway’s economic and environmental crime prosecutors. In an indictment published on Tuesday it accuses Besseberg of receiving “bribes in the form of watches, hunting stays and hunting trophies, prostitutes and a leasing car that he managed from 2011 to 2018 in Norway”.

“Økokrim believes there is evidence that the defendant has received bribes continuously over a 10-year period,” Marianne Djupesland, prosecutor and first state attorney, said. “The seriousness is emphasised by the breach of trust this entails in light of his office as president of the IBU.”

The charge also follows a separate independent IBU investigation in 2021, which alleged that Besseberg had received gifts of between $200,000 and $300,000 from Russian officials after the country was accused of state-sponsored doping.

The IBU report, citing evidence from the police investigation, said that Besseberg admitted that he “received the service of a prostitute” while staying in Moscow, but denied specific knowledge of who had sent the woman, saying only that it was “someone, probably from the Organizing Committee”.

“It was notorious within IBU circles that Mr. Besseberg’s hosts would often provide him with the services of a young, female ‘interpreter’ when he visited Russia,” the report claimed.

The damning 220-page report added: “There is a clear record of Anders Besseberg favouring Russian interests to such a significant extent that it justifies an inference that he did so in exchange for illicit reward, and/or because he was compromised.”

The 77-year-old, who stepped down from the IBU in 2018, denies any criminal behaviour and maintains that he has never accepted a bribe, or sought to influence the IBU’s anti-doping work to the benefit of Russia.

“He does not want to comment on the various charges in detail, but will explain himself to the court when the case comes up there,” Christian B. Hjort, his lawyer, said.