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IIHF launches investigation president Fasel after kickback allegations

BERN, Switzerland - The International Ice Hockey Federation has launched an investigation into allegations that president Rene Fasel was involved in a kickback scheme.

Swiss newspaper SonntagsZeitung published a story Sunday claiming that Fasel benefited financially from contracts awarded to Infront Sports Media, which gave a close personal friend of Fasel's identified only as "Y.S." a multi-million dollar consultation contract.

Infront, which handles the marketing and TV distribution of the IIHF World Hockey Championship, reportedly paid Fasel's friend 400,000 Swiss Francs (C$412,000) per year through a company called Proct AG.

The deal is said to have lasted several years.

"I have never received any commissions or bonuses from these contracts," Fasel told a news conference. "There ... has never been a consulting agreement between me and Infront."

Fasel added that he would welcome the IIHF's investigation.

"With the encouragement of the president, we'll be appointing a small committee to fully investigate the allegations that have been made against him," said IIHF legal committee chairman Fred Meredith.

Fasel is also a member of the International Olympic Committee's Executive Board and will serve as the chairman of the co-ordination commission for the 2010 Games in Vancouver. He's been in charge of the IIHF for 15 years.

The 59-year-old acknowledged that he had helped a "long-term" friend make contact with Infront to "open doors in the Asia market."

"I ... helped a longtime friend to offer his services to Infront, added Fasel, "and I have privately supported him."

The article was published on the final day of the IIHF's flagship event and Fasel noted that its timing was unfortunate.

He addressed the allegations by reading a statement during a bizarre news conference that included one official listing the amount of beer consumed at this year's world championship - 150,000 litres - and a last-second decision by Fasel to invite NHLPA executive director Paul Kelly to the podium to announce that the Chicago Blackhawks will contest the Victoria Cup in September. After doing so, Fasel then mistakenly suggested that Kelly, a Bostonian, was from Chicago.

The IIHF president also caught NHL executive Ken Yaffe off-guard when he publicly acknowledged that the league has a 30-day deadline to decide whether or not it will invest in the European-based Champions Hockey League next season.

The NHL had been hoping to keep its interest in the Champions Hockey League quiet.

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With files from The Associated Press.

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