Author Archives: Irvin Muchnick


George Gibney (left); Journalist and author Irvin Muchnik

With a major new BBC/Second Captains podcast series on George Gibney scheduled for release in May, Irvin Muchnik, who has been on the trail of the swimming coach for years, details recent developments in the US and his lengthy struggle getting even Irish media interested in Gibney.

Irvin writes:

Hobbled by George Gibney’s lack of name recognition on this side of the Atlantic, and pusillanimous by nature when it comes to tackling important sexual assault narratives until they are either the flavour of the month or have risen, in the cliché, to the level of “a dead girl or a live boy”, major American outlets have been slow to pick up on the documented reporting so far published only at my modest-circulation platforms.

The current connection to the more general and better-understood federal grand jury investigation of USA Swimming is a hook for which I remain hopeful for major coverage, though I am not unrealistically optimistic.

Definitive action on George Gibney seems to be one of those chicken-and-egg or “Alphonse-and-Gaston” processes, with multiple moving parts.

Will the Irish government ask for Gibney’s extradition before they are certain that the return answer would be ‘yes’?

Will the US government seek to deport Gibney before being issued a formal extradition request?

And perhaps equally important: In the realpolitik always factoring into such matters, will US Department of Justice’s Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section (MALRS) office ever flip the switch on absent pressure from a more powerful media player than myself?

In 2016, during an early stage of my Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) litigation, I was interviewed for a segment on Fox News called Sports Court. You can view the clip, “Gov’t hiding immigration docs on accused pedophile,” here.

Ironically, the interviewer and producer of Sports Court, Tamara Holder, herself would resign from Fox News late that year as part of a multimillion-dollar settlement of a claim that she was sexually harassed and assaulted by an executive.

Holder thus became part of the real-life narrative of the current movie Bombshell, which is mostly about Megyn Kelly and Gretchen Carlson, two higher-profile ex-Fox News personalities.

Later in 2016, with the help of a friend of mine who was a San Francisco Chronicle columnist, the newspaper’s long-time federal courts reporter, Bob Egelko, was enlisted to write about Judge Breyer’s FOIA ruling.

And that’s it for American media on George Gibney.

Heinous scandals with long tails — whether they’re Jeffrey Epstein or Bill Cosby or Harvey Weinstein or George Gibney — are always festivals of missed opportunities.

In 2014 Chuck Wielgus, the chief executive of USA Swimming, withdrew from his scheduled induction into the International Swimming Hall of Fame in response to a petition campaign by abuse victims who raised the public consciousness of his two-decade role in covering up their cases — and in at least one of them, committing unindicted perjury.

At the time, George Diaz, a columnist for the Orlando Sentinel, bragged to me that his column opining “Why does this man still have a job?” was “one of the five entries that got me a Top 10 acknowledgment by Associated Press Sports Editors as one of the top columnists in the country.”

I found this a strange boast, insofar as (a) on the front end, Diaz had not been responsible for exposing Wielgus’s administration and lies, and (b) on the back end, in any case, Wielgus would remain in his million-dollar-a-year post until he died in 2017. One of the top ten yapping jackals of a fortnight’s media scrum? For sure. Hands down.

But the reason I bring this up is something else: The Orlando Sentinel was George Gibney’s now-home market, and for years I importuned Diaz to jump into the pool on this story, which looked to be right in his wheelhouse. (He did columns mentioning his adoption of a foster child and he advocated for that population.) Yet nothing ever happened.

In November 2014, Diaz told me he had been out sick for three weeks.

In February 2015, Diaz said he was tied up with coverage of the Daytona 500 motor race, but he promised to put Gibney “on the radar screen ASAP”.

In August 2015, Diaz wrote to me, “I have to be honest, I really have been meaning to get to this, but so slammed…”

June 2017: “I will be in touch with editors today. Trust me the issue is not lack of interest…it’s lack of manpower and time…given all the cutbacks that have faced newspapers through the years it’s simply a matter of Last Man (or Woman) standing.”

April 2018: Diaz was downsized out of his column at the Sentinel.

November 2018: The Orlando Sentinel laid off George Diaz.

Then we have the tale of Outside magazine. In early 2018, in the wake of the FOIA settlement with the government and the then-exploding scandal of USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar, I was approached by an old college friend who is the No. 2 editor at Outside.

He suggested that I write the definitive George Gibney feature article for his publication. “Let’s go win a National Magazine Award,” he said. This editor told me he had served as a panelist for the award in the past. Again — the solicitation was from him to me, not the other way around.

Over the course of three months, and with the editor’s guidance, I wrote, then rewrote, then re-rewrote, a story pitch. It was a verbal beatdown of little journalistic acuity. But it did have all trappings of a Hollywood scenarist vying for studio funding.

At long last, my friend the No. 2 editor came back with definitive word from his boss, the No. 1 editor: Outside would be thrilled to have me write a few hundred words about this little brouhaha for the magazine’s website. Then, perhaps, somewhere down the road, a print feature when … when … when …

Saying anything further about all this would be redundant and petulant. The Gibney story is not about me.

Irish media

Irish media counterparts have been a different kettle of fish. They know who George Gibney is, of course, and they episodically obsess over how he was “the one who got away,” while other prominent Irish swimming coaches of his generation went to prison for less (Derry O’Rourke, Ger Doyle), and one for perhaps more (Frank McCann — he murdered his wife and their baby daughter, by burning down their house with them in it, to prevent them from learning that he had raped and impregnated one of his young swimmers).

The Irish media are also hamstrung by the lack of a First Amendment and an accompanying tradition of chilling defamation laws.

And like the public at large, they are often uniquely fatigued and paralysed by the agonizing unspooling of the historical legacies of sexual abuses at many institutions — especially but not only the Catholic Church.

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From top: Former Irish swimming coach George Gibney; journalist Irvin Muchnick 

In America, groups of citizens can be brought together to work as grand juries which investigate potential criminal conduct and decide whether criminal charges should be brought.

They make this determination after obtaining and reviewing documents and other evidence, and perhaps hearing sworn testimonies of witnesses.

US journalist Irvin Muchnick reports that a grand jury is currently investigating USA Swimming in New York and, within that, questions are being asked about former Irish swimming coach George Gibney.

Mr Muchnick writes:

“The year began with what my ebook on the hunt for George Gibney called an “educated prediction” that “2019 will be the year of reckoning” for the former Irish Olympic swimming coach.

Gibney remains harboured in my country, the United States, a quarter of a century after he skated prosecution on 27 counts of child sexual abuse thanks to a controversial technical ruling by the Irish Supreme Court, and more than 20 years after the Irish government’s Murphy Inquiry “vindicated” his accusers.

In a legal Catch-22 laid bare by a federal judge’s 2016 ruling in my favor in a Freedom of Information Act case for Gibney’s American immigration records, his 2010 citizenship application got rejected.

(The applicant was probably making a panicked effort to shut down, once and for all, efforts to extradite and try him for his crimes, including one committed on US soil in 1991.)

At the same time, however, the government decided that Gibney was “not removable,” and his permanent resident alien status was kept intact. The reason given was that he has not been convicted of a crime.

Well, 2019 is drawing to a close and Gibney is still here. But my holiday message to Irish friends is that something important still seems to be happening with him, and soon.

Last week one of my sources, who is close to a secret grand jury investigation in New York whose non-Gibney aspects have been voluminously reported by the Wall Street Journal and other major newspapers, told me that additional persons recently testified to the grand jury regarding Gibney.

This is where I need to explain, yet again, what is and is not driving the US investigation of Gibney.

Not appearing to drive the investigation is any particular moral imperative to bring to justice a person I call the most notorious at-large sex criminal in the history of global sport.

What is happening, rather, is what I call the “chum in the water” model for getting Gibney. This lacks some of the focus and clarity desired by advocates for Gibney’s likely scores of victims.

But the good news is that it could bring about the same desired and long-overdue outcome.

The main task of the grand jury is handing down indictments for sexual abuse cover-ups at USA Swimming – and perhaps more important, insurance fraud, some of it involving the organisation’s now-defunct reinsurance subsidiary, the Barbados-based “United States Sports Insurance Company.”

For, you see, money dictates the priorities of the legal system, along with just about everything else.

The backdrop is the embarrassment of the federal authorities two years ago, when they were exposed as having been asleep at the switch in the scandals surrounding Larry Nassar, the pervert doctor of USA Gymnastics.

The current grand jury now is probing parallel cover-ups at USA Swimming, the grist of which has long been in the pipeline of multiple Federal Bureau of Investigation field offices.

Simultaneous with this is a development spurred by various news headlines and this #MeToo moment: 15 of the 50 individual states have relaxed statute of limitations standards.

Associated Press reporting found that, for the Catholic Church, resulting new litigation “could surpass anything the nation’s clergy sexual abuse crisis has seen before, with potentially more than 5,000 new cases and payouts topping $4 billion.”

Gibney is one of several real and live offshoots of the grand jury investigation of swimming.

As I reported in July with the publication of an updated edition of my Gibney ebook, these investigators are not examining just the ambiguities in his old immigration paperwork.

They are looking at his work as chair of a children’s medical mission in Peru in the late 1990’s, sponsored by a Catholic parish in Colorado — the first of several states of his US odyssey.

I have further reported that the church mission may be connected to the expansion into the US of a right-wing Peruvian sect called Sodalitium Christianae Vitae (“Fellowship of Christian Life”). The Sodalitium’s founder, Luis Fernando Figari, lives in seclusion in Rome, and today is disavowed by the group, following the separate publications of its own independent investigation and of a book by two Peruvian journalists, which document horrifying allegations of widespread sexual abuse and kidnapping.

Last month the US attorney in New York, Geoffrey Berman, who is directing the grand jury, declined to comment on my reporting – first to an Irish media outlet and then to me.

But note that Berman didn’t deny the accuracy of my reporting, either.

My own query to the US attorney had included the name of the co-coordinator of that office’s work on human trafficking, who is said to be spearheading the Gibney aspect of the grand jury probe.

At this point, unfortunately, only the Off the Ball podcast and the Irish Sun have chosen to ramp up my newest Gibney findings.

The Irish Times and the Times of London, which seem most interested in recycling their greatest hits of two decades ago, have not.

But just because many major news media, in America as well as in Ireland, are too cautious to risk reinforcing the reporting of a lone freelance journalist does not invalidate its truthfulness and thoroughness.

So to those who remain hopeful, I say: Hang in there. And Happy Holidays.”

Previously: The Chief Justice, Her Brother And How George Gibney Got Away

Unreasonable Delay

Irvin Muchnick on Broadsheet

From top: Irvin Muchnik with Independent TD Maureen O’uullivan; Croke Park; Spice Bag. All pics: Irvin Muchnick

On the trail of George Gibney, American sportswriter and investigative journalist Irvin Muchnick visited Dublin recently.

Irvin writes:

The ostensible purpose of my visit to Dublin was promotion of the second edition of my ebook The George Gibney Chronicles: What the Hunt For the Most Notorious At-Large Sex Criminal in the History of Global Sports Has Told Us About the Sports Establishments and Governments on Two Continents.

Two Broadsheet worthies share my belief that this is a story worth continuing to tell, more and better: Olga Cronin (who has been vetting new Gibney factoids for a number of years) and John Ryan (this quirky website’s somewhat Oz-like majordomo but in a good way!).

This is an account of how things turned out for me in Ireland on the extradition campaign front — and several others. Obviously, I didn’t accomplish the immediate transport of Gibney in handcuffs.

But I was able to experience one of the world’s great cities and meet the coolest people.

For those of you just tuning in, Gibney is merely the former two-time Irish Olympic swimming head coach who fled here in the mid-1990s after a dodgy technical Supreme Court decision quashed what were then the 27 most rigorous charges assembled against him, out of a body of more instances of child molestation and rape than we’ll ever know.

Agreeing in 2016, in my Freedom of Information Act case against the Department of Homeland Security, to open up at least some of the Gibney immigration files I was seeking to daylight, a distinguished senior federal judge, Charles R. Breyer, reviewed the dual paradoxical upshot of Gibney’s 2010 application for naturalized citizenship.

Number one, that application failed because he lied on it in response to the material question of whether he had ever been criminally indicted in his native country.

Number two, the federal immigration bureaucracy decided, nonetheless, that he was not a candidate for removal from the country.

In his published opinion, which remains in the law books in the wake of my 2017 settlement at the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, Judge Breyer asked why? “We’re not a haven for pedophiles,” he observed.

Maureen O’Sullivan, the Dublin Central district’s independent representative in the Dáil, promptly pressed Simon Coveney, tánaiste and foreign minister.

The government “will act” on the new Gibney information “if we can,” Coveney said on the floor of the Dáil.

More than a year and a half later, these Socratic maieutics remain aspirational during the pendency of what I am reliably told is yet another run at examining Gibney’s p’s and q’s — an exercise that also resumes the on-again, off-again exploration of whether Ireland’s director of public prosecutions has any game left.

Some of us insist that where there’s a way, there should be a will. The scholarship of the 1994 Irish Supreme Court statute of limitations ruling in the Gibney matter — partially determined, with classic cronyism, by a justice whose brother argued the case before the judicial panel — has frayed.

And new information has emerged on the old cases. And new cases have emerged.

And lest we forget, one of the most heinous allegations against Gibney, his rape and impregnation of one of his teen swimmers, occurred in 1991 in Tampa, pointing to the direct jurisdictional interest of not only the U.S. Department of Justice, but the state attorney of Hillsborough County, Florida, as well.

(Citing the Irish government’s too-little-too-late 1998 Murphy Commission report, which passively voiced the finding that Gibney’s accusers “were vindicated” by the evidence accumulated against Gibney by An Garda Síochána, the national police, I decline the conventional and cant adverb “allegedly.”)

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