Norwegian prosecution seek nearly four years in prison for former IBU chief

Anders Besseberg was head of the International Biathlon Union (IBU) (1993-2018). He has since been on trial in Oslo for aggravated corruption. Prosecutors asked the court to sentence him to three years and seven months in prison and a fine of one million kroner (€88,000) for accepting bribes.

“Anders Besseberg, 77, former head of the International Biathlon Union for 26 years (1993 to 2018), has been on trial for five weeks since January 9 on charges of aggravated corruption, which he denies. This Thursday, prosecutors asked judges to sentence him to three years and seven months in prison and a fine of one million kronor (€88,000) for accepting bribes,” reports AFP.

The investigation found that Besseberg had received gifts. These included luxury watches, prostitutes and hunting trips. The accused admitted to accepting some gifts, but denied any corruption.

Besseberg was initially accused of hiding Russian doping cases in exchange for favours as head of the IBU, when the Russian doping scandal erupted in the 2010s. Prosecutors initially dropped this line, but in Norway, receiving undue favours even if no services are offered in return, is enough to constitute corruption. “Aggravated corruption” in Norway is punishable by up to 10 years in prison. 

Besseberg pushed for the 2021 Biathlon World Championships to be held in Tyumen, Siberia, despite the Russian doping scandals, according to an investigation launched by Swede Olle Dahlin, who succeeded Besseberg as head of the IBU after the accused left his post. However, the event was eventually held in Pokljuka, Slovenia.

During the trial, prosecutors also argued that Besseberg went on fully paid hunting trips to Austria and the Czech Republic and drove a leased BMW X5 for seven years. All of this was paid for by Infront, a marketing company that held the television rights to the sport.

On the first day of the trial, Marianne Djupesland asked, “Why did the Russians want to corrupt Besseberg?” Prosecutors say that between 2008 and 2019, Besseberg received three watches worth a total of more than €30,000, was invited on deer and wild boar hunting trips and offered the services of sex workers. All paid for by Russian officials.

As reported by Inside The Games on 31 January: “The accused admitted to some gifts, but denied any corruption: “I have no interest in watches and no knowledge of brands and their value,” he said, describing himself as a “simple farm boy”.

Regarding an Omega watch worth over €17,000 that he received for his 65th birthday in 2011, he insisted: “I did not think it was undeserved. Regarding the hunting trips, he claimed that the organised trips did not influence the decisions of the International Biathlon Union (IBU), over which he claimed to have little influence.

He also denied any contact with sex workers in exchange for influencing decisions but admitted to a consensual romantic relationship with a 42-year-old Russian woman.

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