Papa Massata Diack corruption appeal opens in Paris

FILE PHOTO: Papa Massata Diack, the son of former world athletics chief Lamine Diack, speaks out ahead of a September 16 verdict in his father's corruption trial in Dakar, Senegal September 14, 2020. REUTERS/Christophe Van Der Perre

PARIS (Reuters) - The appeal trial of Papa Massata Diack, son of Lamine Diack, the late former head of world athletic’s governing body, against a corruption conviction opened in Paris on Friday, one of his French lawyers said.

Papa Massata, who fled France to Senegal seven years ago when the French investigation first began, was not present at the appeal hearing.

His lawyers asked on Friday that the appeal be postponed because Papa Massata was under "legal supervision" in Senegal where he faces a similar investigation and could not leave the country, but the court rejected the request.

Papa Massata and his father were at the heart of a scandal that involved taking kickbacks from Russian athletes in return for concealing positive drug tests, which enabled them to continue competing, including at the 2012 London Olympics.

Both men were convicted on fraud charges in France in September 2020. Papa Massata was sentenced to five years in jail and hit with a 1 million euro fine for his part in the scam.

"He categorically contests the allegations," his French lawyer Antoine Beauquier said. "He is being criticized for being successful."

Contacted in Senegal by Reuters, Papa Massata said he had been under "legal supervision" in Senegal for seven years and that he would let his lawyers discuss the case. He said he wanted to be able to concentrate on African sports.

French prosecutors have argued Papa Massata was at the centre of a corruption probe that spanned Europe, Asia and the Americas, and that included the awarding of the 2020 Olympic Games to Tokyo and the 2016 Games to Rio de Janeiro.

His father, Lamine Diack, once one of the most powerful men in world athletics, was handed a four-year prison sentence in 2020 but he was never jailed.

Diack remained under house arrest in France and was later released on bail, allowing him to return to Senegal where he died in December 2021 aged 88.

(Reporting by Dominique Vidalon; Editing by Richard Lough and Frances Kerry)

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