Did A Heroin Kingpin Help Sochi Score the Olympics?

By Shawn Dwyer 01/31/14

Despite a criminal indictment in Uzbekistan and bank accounts frozen by U.S. authorities, Gafur Rakhimov was instrumental in landing the Olympics in Sochi.

Gafur Rakhimov Photo via

According to U.S. and British authorities, mysterious Russian businessman and alleged drug smuggling gangster Gafur Rakhimov was instrumental in helping Sochi win the rights to host this year’s Winter Olympics.

In 2007, the International Olympic Committee voted to award Sochi the Olympic Games over Austria and South Korea. At the time, the head of the Russian Olympic Committee publicly thanked Rakhimov for his "singled minded work" in helping Russia land the games. Without Rakhimov’s behind the scenes efforts, “it would have been hard for Sochi to count on the victory."

But it turns out that Rakhimov is heavily linked to the world’s heroin trade and is currently under criminal indictment in Uzbekistan. "He is one of the four or five most important people in the heroin trade in the world," said Craig Murray, a former British ambassador to Uzbekistan, in an ABC News report.  "He's absolutely a very major and dangerous gangster.”

Rakhimov’s drug connections were what led him to being banned from attending the 2000 Olympic games in Australia. In 2012, the U.S. Treasury department froze his bank accounts after tagging him as a key player in a Russian-Asian crime syndicate called the Brother’s Circle. "He has operated major international drug syndicates involving the trafficking of heroin," said Treasury in a statement.

But because he remains vice president of the Olympic Council of Asia, Rakhimov is still able to wield influence through his alleged connections to the mafia and top officials at the Kremlin.

Though the IOC declined to directly respond to questions regarding Rakhimov, they did say in a statement that, "The IOC has a strong, transparent, tried-and-tested bidding process."

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Shawn Dwyer is a writer, editor and content producer living in Los Angeles. You can find him on Linkedin.