A federal judge in Newark yesterday said he will hear arguments Monday on a federal prosecutor's request for a temporary restraining order that would place limits on the International Boxing Federation and its four top officials.
IBF President Robert W. Lee Sr., and three other top IBF officials were indicted Nov. 3 on criminal charges that they accepted $338,000 in bribes from promoters, managers and others to manipulate the rankings for fighters.
Last Monday, U.S. Attorney Robert J. Cleary filed a civil racketeering lawsuit against the four IBF officials and the organization. In court papers, Cleary alleged that the IBF is corrupt and asked U.S. Judge John W. Bissell to appoint a monitor to reform the IBF. He also asked the judge to issue a temporary restraining order that would prevent Lee and others from dissipating or hiding IBF assets, limit spending by the IBF and require an accounting of IBF assets.
Bissell had been scheduled to hear arguments on the restraining order yesterday. But at yesterday's hearing, Bissell said he would take up that matter Monday when he already is scheduled to hear arguments in an earlier request from the prosecutor to freeze IBF assets in the criminal case.
According to the Associated Press, Bissell accepted pledges from lawyers for the IBF and Lee that the organization's assets would remain intact and not be used to fund Lee's defense.
In an interview yesterday, Cleary said the criminal indictment of the top IBF officials and the civil racketeering lawsuit "work in tandem. The indictment charges them with criminally running this enterprise." If a monitor is appointed by the court to replace the current management of IBF, Cleary said the monitor "will weed out the corrupting elements and make sure the organization is run in an honest and legitimate way."
In court papers, Cleary has asked Bissell to appoint Zachary W. Carter, a former U.S. attorney for the Eastern District in Brooklyn as monitor. In an interview, Cleary said that the court appointment of monitors since the criminal and civil racketeering laws were enacted by Congress have been used predominantly for reforming corrupt labor unions.
Lee, 65, of Fanwood, N.J., yesterday maintained his innocence. "I think this is being unfair to me," he said in an interview. "I haven't been convicted of anything, only accused."
Lee said the civil racketeering lawsuit "is an unwarranted expansion of the federal government's powers under the" racketeering laws.
In addition to Lee, the three other top officials charged in both the civil and criminal cases are Lee's son, Robert Jr., 38, of Scotch Plains, N.J., former Virginia boxing commissioner Donald William Brennan, 86, of Warsaw, Va., and Francisco Fernandez of Colombia, an international commissioner of the IBF.
The indictment lists 32 instances of bribery payments between 1985 and 1998 and includes charges of conspiracy and racketeering. Officials said seven promoters and managers and 23 boxers were involved, but none was named in the indictment.
Some boxing promoters interviewed yesterday said they welcomed Cleary's decision to ask for a court monitor to reform the IBF.
"This situation is a very sad one," said Patrick English, a lawyer who represented heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis in his Nov. 13 victory over Evander Holyfield in an IBF fight. Lewis's representatives had delayed in paying the $300,000 sanctioning fee to IBF officials because they were worried where it would end up. An agreement was made to put the money in escrow, English said.
"You have allegations that go to the heart of the integrity of the business," English said. " . . . If a monitor is what is needed to clean up IBF, so be it. It doesn't offend me in the slightest."