Prosecutors Investigating Spanish Basketball Deal



A Georgian family, who sent their son to Baskonia hired a lawyer, Giorgi Kondakhashvili, who says an investigation is looking into possible misappropriation and embezzlement of government funds.

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.

A five-year contract was signed with Saski Baskonia by the federation on Sept. 24, 2014. The contract calls on the Federation to send its most promising teenage basketball players to Saski Baskonia, a top professional club in Spain, where players will be developed by coaches.

The idea of this contract was that in a few years, the best of the Georgian players would go on to sign big contracts with the NBA in the US or with top European teams. Collecting the player contract transfer fees would then provide the federation with a sturdy profit

Nearly four years later, Georgia has spent nearly €2.5 million since the start 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 only Georgian in the NBA today is Zaza Pachulia, who was drafted in back in 2003, quite a way before the contract was signed, and played the last two seasons for the NBA champion Golden State Warriors in California. Another Georgian, Tornike Shengelia, signed with the Brooklyn Nets in 2012 and spent only two years in the league.

Usually, if a player is chosen for an extended professional tryout, the team covers expenses such as air fare, stipends, housing and schooling costs.

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

This 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 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. This is not guaranteed to happen; in fact, the chances are quite slim. 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 with the hope that some of them will sign a high value contract. Two quickly returned home, and none of the ones remaining are close to signing any big-money deals.


 By Shawn Wayne

13 July 2018 12:04