‘Movers and shakers’ on racing’s shady side
JONATHAN QUAYLE HIGGINGS
Thursdays: IRC Newsletter
There is an unusual number of ‘Movers and Shakers’ in the wonderful world of horseracing at the moment, though most of them are not lending plausibility to the actual meaning of the phrase.
From the articles and gossip that cross the desk in my little Suffolk village home office, I believe the biggest ‘mover’ of the last few weeks to be multiple UAE Champion trainer, Satish Seemar (headline photo), who has moved several notches down in the estimate of racing’s glitterati, administrators and fans in Dubai and around the world. He has moved to clear his name.
If investigations into his alleged improper business conduct deliver proof and truth, there is a chance that Seemar may also be moving from his villa at the Desert Palm Polo Club to somewhere perhaps a little less luxurious and where the bars on the bedroom windows are not designed to keep burglars out.
According to the global commercial intelligence platform Sayari, “Seemar maintains a network of previously unreported companies within the U.S. and UK. The network, which also has ties to Gulf-based Arab elites, highlights a unique case of risk within an industry not regularly subject to sanctions.”
The U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) sanctioned Seemar in December 2020 due to his role as a horse trainer for Ramzan Kadryov, the head of the Chechen Republic. OFAC sanctioned Kadyrov at the same time given his position as the head of the Kadyrovtsky, an organization that has engaged in serious human rights abuses, according to an OFAC press release.
Seemar was added to the OFAC sanctions list by the US Department of the Treasury on December 10, 2020 and was described as a “prominent member of Kadyrov’s network” in a press release which stated: “Satish Seemar, a horse trainer for Kadyrov, has materially assisted, sponsored, or provided financial material, or technological support for, or goods and services to or in support of, Kadyrov.”
Because of Seemar’s designation, all of his U.S. assets are blocked. Moreover, U.S. persons who pay him for his horse training or stable management services, or otherwise transact with other companies he owns and/or controls, could be in violation of U.S. law.
Whether Seemar is guilty or not, his patrons could well be in the wrong light simply by association while the trainer is being investigated and one U.S. owner said: “We haven’t heard much. There was a short press press release informing us of Seemar’s suspension but that is all so far. There is a concern for owners here and probably elsewhere too. Several other trainers previously had horses in their yards owned by Kadryov, but their names haven’t been mentioned. Only Seemar is being investigated and there must be something going on.”
Seemar’s assistant, Bhupat Seemar, has taken over the licence and Seemar said in a statement: “I have been informed by the Emirates Racing Authority that it is temporarily suspending my licence, with immediate effect. This is due to one of my former clients being included on the United States Office of Foreign Assets Control list.”
Confirming his suspension was linked to training for Kadyrov, Seemar added: “The horse in question, North America, is no longer in training at Zabeel Racing Stables and has been exported from the UAE. My case has been submitted to lawyers in Washington DC and I’m confident my name will be removed from the list in the near future.”
We’ll be watching with interest.
Three other ‘Movers’, based in the UK, are Parliamentarians Dr Alan Smith, the Bishop of St Albans and Baroness Scott of Bybrook, as well as Duncan Smith of the Centre for Social Justice.
This morning, the trio managed to move my normally moderately active bowels in grotesque yet spectacular fashion after I read about an orchestrated campaign to introduce state surveillance on gamblers based on their premise that gambling is a social illness that causes untold misery and distress.
Bishop Smith is a long-time campaigner against gambling (whose time will be so much better served campaigning against the sexual abuse of children in the greater organisation he serves), while the esteemed Baroness, like most other politicians, has sought and found a soft spot to focus on as she tries to enhance her standing and public image.
The activist Duncan Smith wrote in a 2017 report: “The CSJ recommends that all gambling transactions must be verified via debit card details to confirm an individual’s identity and thereby provide the financial sector holistic data on all gambling spend. We call for the comprehensive elimination of gambling marketing, inducements, and advertising in the UK… We recommend that policymakers consider an approach akin to that applied in tobacco control, which takes into consideration all forms of advertising, including promotion and sponsorship. Additionally, the implementation of the Tobacco Advertising and Promotion Act 2002 would provide a guideline for advertising regulation that could easily be followed.”
Lee Mottershead of Racing Post wrote in relation, this week: “There is a danger that a vital public policy debate is being distorted by the presentation of misleading evidence. That is a real cause for concern. The consequences for the gambling industry would be monumentally damaging. For the sport of horseracing, so heavily funded by those who bet, the outcome would be equally catastrophic.
“It all amounts to Orwellian interference by the state. Asked to jump through intrusive hoops, and deterred by the knowledge that their betting activity would be policed by the government, the pleasure of punting would be massively diminished, as would the number of people who bet. It is nigh on certain that many would rather stop betting than consent to external inspection of their financial dealings.
“The ban would likely bring to an end almost all mainstream television coverage of the sport, given that it depends on commercial broadcasters – currently ITV and previously Channel 4 – being able to make profits out of partnerships and advertising deals with bookmakers. Racecourses would also be denied by far their biggest source of sponsorship income.”
DRAGGED THROUGH MUD: Dunne’s good name is gone, and Frost insists he deserves it.
Undoubtedly the ‘Shaker’ of the moment is the embattled Robbie Dunne, who has been accused by fellow jock Bryony Frost of “opening his towel and shaking himself” in front of her in a Jockeys Room. This is something he is alleged to have done a few times before.
Frost, who provided her testimony during a British Horseracing Authority disciplinary panel hearing, spoke on the second day of the hearing into seven individual charges brought against Dunne for prejudicial conduct and violent and threatening behaviour.
The ‘shaking’ part is unclear, however, and arguably has a bearing on the severity of this particular charge. Frost should be saying exactly what the male jockey is alleged to have… dunne. Did Robbie try to shake himself dry like a dog jumping out of a swimming pool (perhaps he was stepping out of the shower); did he merely adjust his equipment as men tend to do; or did he actually shake his appendage in a lewd and inviting fashion, like the late John Holmes did in the acclaimed 1976 classic Tell Them Johnny Wadd is Here?
Maybe Robbie was just in a jolly shaking mood in a happy Jockeys Room where camaraderie is normally evident and did a few John Travolta-like struts, like the dances the actor performed in the box office hit, Grease (presently being banned as a stage show by schools in Australia for reasons of sexism).
Yes, Bryony needs to go into detail on this one. While this story is out there for the world to consider, we may as we’ll get the specifics presented. It’s come this far.
Meantime, I am returning to the lavatory here in my humble, old-fashioned abode. (The flushing mechanism is attached to a chain).
The world is going crazy, and that wholly includes the world of racing.
I’m all shook up. -IRC.