KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTING —- Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah, once of the most powerful men in world sport, has been sentenced to jail in Geneva over his role in plotting a coup in his Kuwaiti homeland.
The 58-year-old denied charges of forgery and remains free on bail pending his intended appeal. A Geneva court handed him a 30-month sentence, half to be served in prison.
Sheikh Ahmad is a senior member of the International Olympic Committee – playing a key role in the presidential election of Thomas Bach in 2013 – as well as head of the organisation’s cash-sharing ‘solidarity’ commission as president of the Olympic Committee of Asia.
He stood aside from those roles, as well as the leadership of the Association of National Olympic Committees after the case erupted in November 2018. The court verdict promoted him also to relinquish temporarily the the OCA leadership which will be taken over on an interim basis by vice-president Raja Randhir Singh.
Sheikh Ahmad is also a secretary-general of the oil-exporting organisation OPEC and a prominent member of Kuwait’s ruling family.
He landed in court after being accused, along with four other others, of plotting to prove that Kuwait’s former Prime Minister, Sheikh Nasser Mohammed al-Ahmed al-Sabah, and parliamentary speaker Jassem al-Kharafi had been guilty of corruption and planning a coup.
The case concerned videos purporting to show Al-Mohammed and Al-Kharafi plotting to overthrow Kuwait’s then-emir. Prosecutors alleged that Sheikh Ahmad knew that the videos, which he passed on to Kuwaiti authorities, were fakes. Sheikh Ahmad insisted he honestly believed the videos to have been authentic.
In 2015, he publicly apologised on Kuwait TV to Sheikh Nasser, who is now the country’s emir, to Al-Kharafi and to their families. He insisted he had thought the videos genuine and credible.
Sheikh Ahmad’s downfall is not connected with the wide-ranging United States Justice investigation into corruption in world football. However, he was briefly a member of the council of world governing body FIFA before resigning in April 2017 over allegations of improper payments.
He denied wrongdoing but the dark cloud of FIFAGate drifted back over his head earlier this month after reports by US media that he was being investigated for alleged racketeering and bribery.
Also under scrutiny is close aide Husain Al-Musallam who is president of the world aquatic sports body FINA and has served as the OCA’s director-general for the past 16 years. He has also denied all wrongdoing.
Associated Press has reported the DoJ as studying payments of $1m to Richard Lai, then head of the football federation of Guam. These were wired from personal accounts held by three of the men in court and Olympic organisations run by Sheikh Ahmad.
In April 2017 Lai admitted financial conspiracy charges in a US federal court and agreed to pay $1.1m in penalties. He has yet to be sentenced but has already banned for life from football by FIFA.
Guam is an island in the western Pacific which falls within the Asian sports empire. However it is a US territory which thus offers federal agents judicial and investigatory access to its banking network.