Follow the money — IHF Treasurer arrested

Photo from Croatian media after Sola's arrest

Photo from Croatian media after Sola’s arrest

Apropos my ‘follow the money’ story from yesterday, involving the Duke of Palma de Mallorca, one always feels tempted to remind that ‘everybody is innocent until proven guilty’. But others prefer to rely on the notion that ‘there is no smoke without a fire’ and, as a former IHF colleague has always cynically stated: ‘the difference between being caught and escaping a verdict is simply how clever one is in hiding the evidence’… That latter point has sometimes been made in connection with accusations and rumors involving the IHF in recent years.

Sadly, it now appears that the image of the IHF is again at stake, and that this time there seems to be no lack of evidence. As reported yesterday, both in Croatia and across Europe, the IHF Treasurer (and President of the Croatian Handball Federation) Sandi Sola was early yesterday arrested by Croatian police when he returned to his country from a handball event in Skopje, Macedonia. Apparently, Croatian media are unusually efficient (or well-informed), as they had already predicted this police action the day before it happened. Or perhaps this was simply expected because several other members of Sola’s family had already been apprehended while he was away.

It should be noted that the whole affair has nothing to do with Sola’s functions as an IHF Treasurer. But it tells what appears to be a devastating story about his suitability for that kind of position of trust and influence. The accusations against Sola and his family are related to his position as the Chairman of the Board of a Croatian bank during the years 2007-2012. The charge involves what is described as fraud, embezzlement and money laundering. The amounts involved are stated to be in the order of U.S. $ 15 million. The early indications are that Sola is initially being detained for at least one month.

Presumably, the affair comes as a major surprise to most people in the handball world. Stories about IHF scandals have tended to be personally connected with the IHF President. In a situation where it has seemed impossible to find persons willing to come forward as candidates for the IHF presidency, it has sometimes been speculated that precisely Sola would be the person who could fit the bill as the future successor to the current President. Now instead, regardless of whether the accusations will lead to an indictment or not, it must be assumed that Sola’s continued presence among IHF Executives will be in serious doubt in connection with the upcoming IHF election congress in October.

Whether it will have any impact on the image and the electability of the IHF President himself is a different matter. But there is little doubt that it is one more major blow to the image of the IHF as an institution! What more can we expect and what more should handball lovers have to tolerate!?