World Cup hosts Russia defend anti-racism chief in theft probe
Moscow: Russian football bosses are rallying behind World Cup anti-racism inspector Alexei Smertin in an embezzlement probe unfolding less than two months before kickoff.
The scandal surrounding Moscow police club Dynamo brings together two major problems facing Russia ahead of the June 14-July 15 final: monkey chants and corruption.
A former Chelsea player, Smertin serves both as the World Cup's chief anti-discrimination official and Dynamo's executive director.
His second job turned into a poisoned chalice when evidence came to light of 1.6 million euro ( 2 million) being stolen from the team by former general director Yevgeny Muravyov.
The sums involved are not large when compared to the money splashing around in the bigger European leagues.
But they have added to organisers' headaches as they race against the clock to put on the most expensive World Cup ever staged.
Dynamo on Tuesday confirmed that it had submitted financial records linked to Smertin and Muravyov to the interior ministry.
The RBK business news site said Muravyov is suspected of wiring the 1.6
million euros to his own shell companies using the cover of two fictitious business deals.
Dynamo concedes that the documents authorising the money transfers were signed by Smertin — a
charismatic former national team captain who
played for English Premier League giants Chelsea in 2003-2006.
But it argued on Tuesday that Smertin was forced into approving the transactions by Muravyov.