Sports

Sport: Olympic Council of Asia chief Sheikh Ahmad steps down following Swiss conviction


GENEVA (REUTERS, AFP) – Kuwait’s Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah will temporarily step down as president of the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA), his office said on Friday (Sept 10), following a guilty verdict against him in a Swiss forgery trial.

“Sheikh Ahmad has decided that he will temporarily step aside as President of the OCA until he has successfully appealed today’s verdict,” a statement from his office said.

The case against world sport powerbroker Sheikh Ahmad is a complex forgery issue linked to an alleged plot against his political rivals in Kuwait.

After just over a week of hearings, the Geneva Criminal Court ruled convicted him, handing him a 30-month prison sentence, half of it suspended.

Four other defendants – three Geneva-based lawyers and a Kuwaiti aide – were also found guilty and handed sentences of up to 36 months behind bars.

The five were convicted over an intricate forgery scheme linked to efforts to prove that Kuwait’s former prime minister and speaker of parliament were guilty of coup-plotting and corruption.

The sheikh, who has denied any wrongdoing, sat in the court on Friday, a blue face mask under his bearded chin, shaking his head as the head judge read out his sentence.

The senior member of Kuwait’s ruling family and a former government minister told journalists afterwards that he would appeal.

When Swiss prosecutors brought charges against him in 2018, the sheikh also stepped aside from his duties as a long-time member of the International Olympic Committee.

Bogus arbitration

Sheikh Ahmad, who remains the head of the Asian Handball Federation, was accused of orchestrating a fake arbitration case to legitimise suspicious video recordings he presented as evidence of corrupt practices by ex-premier Sheikh Nasser Mohammad al-Ahmad al-Sabah and former parliament chief Jassem al-Khorafi.

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In 2013, he provided these recordings to Kuwaiti authorities that he said showed the pair plotting a coup, and conducting corrupt transactions to pocket tens of billions of dollars of public funds.

The authenticity of the video recordings was contested.

According to Friday’s ruling, Sheikh Ahmad’s lawyers then engineered a complex set-up, in which he ceded the broadcast rights of the videos to Delaware firm Trekell.

Trekell – a shell company controlled by the defendants, according to the court – then filed a lawsuit claiming the videos were fake.

This enabled a fictious arbitration to be set up, the court ruled.

In the arbitration case, one of the Geneva-based lawyers took on the role of arbitrator and signed a ruling stating that the videos were authentic, and received a 10,000 Swiss franc (S$14,600) payment in return.

Sheikh Ahmad then attempted to use the Swiss court ruling as evidence that the voices heard in the recordings were those of the two former officials.

Geneva prosecutors began investigating the case back in 2015 after a criminal complaint was filed there on behalf of Sheikh Nasser and al-Khorafi, who died in May that year.

The al-Kharafi family’s lawyer, Catherine Hohl-Chirazi told AFP the case had poisoned the final months of former parliament speaker’s life, adding: “All this was Machiavellian”.

Meanwhile, India’s Raja Randhir Singh has taken over as acting president of OCA.

A five-time Olympic shooter and an Asian Games gold medallist in 1978, Singh was promoted to the role from his position as an honorary life vice-president.

“Whilst I have every confidence that Sheikh Ahmad will be successful in his appeal, I would be honoured to step in temporarily as the acting president of the OCA to ensure the continued smooth running of the organisation in the critical period ahead,” Singh said in a statement.

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