KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTING —- Kuwait is back in world football and negotiating a return to the Olympic family but its international sport powerbroker Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah remains under domestic scrutiny.
According to Finance Minister Nayef al-Hajraf, the public prosecution service is considering a report from the state’s financial investigation unit into deposits by persons and companies related to the Olympic Committee, the Association of National Olympic Committees (ANOC) and the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA).
Sheikh Ahmad, a member of the International Olympic Committee, is president of both ANOC and the OCA as well as of Olympic Solidarity which is responsible for Games revenue distribution.
He has consistently denied wrongdoing since becoming the subject of speculation after the arrest a year ago in the United States of Richard Lai, the former president of the football federation of Guam.
Lai is awaiting sentence in New York after admitting three counts of fraud relating to the acceptance and payment of $950,000 in bribes from sports sources in Qatar and Kuwait.
He agreed to pay more than $1.1m in forfeiture and has been provisionally banned by world federation FIFA.
Two days later Sheikh Ahmad announced he was stepping down as an Asian Football Confederation representative on the governing council of world federation FIFA so as not to “distract attention from the upcoming AFC and FIFA congresses.”
He remains entangled, however, in a three-year-old wrangle within the governing Kuwaiti royal family which had been prompted by the failure of then Sports Minister Sheikh Salman Sabah Salem Al-Hunmoud Al-Sabah to win the presidency of the International Shooting Sport Federation.
The row boiled over into Sheikh Salman’s creation of a sports law through which he sought to seize control of the national Olympic committee and the Kuwaiti Football Association and sought punitive damages against senior officials and the IOC.
Sheikh Salman has since resigned, easing the way towards negotiations to bring Kuwait back into the world sporting fold.
However the row has erupted again after the investigation by the financial investigation unit with the cooperation of the Ministry of the Interior. Links to ANOC and OCA were claimed by Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister Sheikh Khalid Al-Jarrah Al-Sabah.
Al-Jarrah told the National Assembly that “the State Security Sector at the Ministry of Interior received a request from the Financial Investigation Unit on some financial transactions related to this file.”
He added that “therefore, the State Security Sector called one of the persons named in the file to investigate with him and took some information from him, and after the completion of the investigation, it showed some results, that was sent to the Financial Investigation Unit.”
Sheikh Al-Jarrah pointed out that the Olympic Council of Asia “does not enjoy any immunity because the government of Kuwait has cancelled two years ago the agreement with the Olympic Council of Asia.”
At the start of last month the National Assembly approved a request for a panel of parliament members to consider the existence of deposits and withdrawals of cash, bank transfers and cheques relating to individuals and companies concerned with the IOC, ANOC and the OCA.
ANOC and the OCA, like Sheikh Ahmad, have always denied wrongdoing.
Last week IOC spokesman Mark Adams said that discussions on the readmission of Kuwait to the Olympic family were moving “in the right direction.”