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Old 08-02-2002, 10:43 AM   #1
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Default Safin, Kafelnikov admit link to alleged mobster

Safin, Kafelnikov admit link to alleged mobster

TORONTO (Reuters) - Russian tennis players Marat Safin and Yevgeny Kafelnikov have both admitted to links with Alimzhan Tokhtakhounov, but distanced themselves from the alleged mobster charged with fixing figure skating results at the Winter Olympics.

Kafelnikov, who crashed out in the third round of the Canada Tennis Masters to Guillermo Canas of Argentina, said after his defeat that Tokhtakhounov was a "good friend" but would not elaborate on their relationship.

"He is a good friend of mine but I'd rather talk about tennis," said fifth seed Kafelnikov. "I wasn't distracted (by the news).

"You know whatever happens there...I'm sure it's some kind of mistake."

U.S. federal prosecutors in New York said they had charged Uzbek-born Tokhtakhounov, 53, over an alleged plan to fix the pairs and ice dance competitions at February's Salt Lake City Games on behalf of French and Russian competitors.

Italian police, who arrested Tokhtakhounov at his seaside home, bluntly described him as "a senior member of a money-laundering group comprising of mostly non-Italians".

Safin, the second seed in Toronto, also admitted to knowing Tokhtakhounov following his third-round victory over Chilean Marcelo Rios.

Questioned if he knew him, Safin replied: "Yeah". But he was evasive when asked if the alleged mobster was his manager.

"I don't mean to be rude but you will not understand, it is not our problem," said Safin. "I don't think it would be nice to talk about this today."
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