Prosecutors Investigating Spanish Basketball Deal

A lawyer for a Georgian family that sent their son to Baskonia, Giorgi Kondakhashvili, says the investigation is looking into possible misappropriation and embezzlement of government funds. Prosecutors have taken documents from the Georgian Basketball Federation office, Kondakhashvili said.

Two years after board members quit the Georgian Basketball Federation in protest of a player development deal with Spain’s Saski Baskonia team; Georgian prosecutors are investigating the program.

The prosecutor’s office declined to comment.

The federation signed the five-year contract with Saski Baskonia on Sept. 24, 2014. The contract calls for the state-funded Georgian Basketball Federation to send its most promising teenage basketball players to Saski Baskonia, a top professional club in Spain, where coaches would help develop them.

The idea was that in a few years, the best of the Georgian players would go on to sign big-money contracts with the National Basketball Association (NBA) in the United States or with top European teams. The Georgian Basketball Federation would then collect contract transfer fees, which would presumably be more than it paid the Spanish club for its training services, and make a profit.

Nearly four years later, Georgia is on track to spend €2.5 million over the span of the contract and has almost nothing to show for it.

Georgian prosecutors have begun asking questions about how and why it was signed. They have been interviewing current and former federation officials since April. Convictions could carry prison time of seven to 11 years.

The sole Georgian in the NBA today is Zaza Pachulia, who was drafted in 2003 and played the last two seasons for the NBA champion Golden State Warriors in California. He is reportedly signing a contract with the NBA Detroit Pistons for the 2018-2019 season. Another Georgian, Tornike Shengelia, signed with the Brooklyn Nets in 2012 and spent two years in the league.

The odds of any athlete making it to the NBA are small, the leagues and hundreds of professional clubs outside the US pay less than the NBA. If a player is chosen for an extended professional tryout, the team usually covers expenses such as air fare, stipends, housing and schooling costs.

That’s not how the Georgian deal with Baskonia is structured.

The five-year contract instead calls for the Georgian Basketball Federation to pay Baskonia €2.1 million up front, or €500,000 annually, with the hope, but with no guarantee, that Georgia would earn part of it back through contract transfer fees if any of the players Baskonia accepts, go on to sign professional deals. However, According to an addendum to the contract, if Georgia hasn’t recouped €1.5 million from the transfer fees by 2024, Baskonia says it will refund the difference.

So far, eight young Georgians have gone to Spain under the contract (though two quickly returned home). None are close to signing big-money deals.

 

 By Shawn Wayne

13 July 2018 12:04

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