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Verdicts due in Swiss forgery trial of Olympic official


GENEVA (AP) — Verdicts are due in a Geneva court on Friday in the trial of Olympic power broker Sheikh Ahmad al-Fahad al-Sabah for alleged forgery linked to implicating political rivals in Kuwait in a coup plot.

The public prosecutor has asked the panel of three judges to sentence Sheikh Ahmad to six months’ jail time with a further two years suspended.

He has been publicly sidelined from his Olympic leadership roles since he was indicted in November 2018.

The sheikh and four other men are accused of staging a sham arbitration case in Geneva seeking to authenticate video footage of a possible coup in the oil-rich kingdom.

Sheikh Ahmad was questioned over five hours during a six-day trial conducted in French, Arabic and English at the Tribunal Correctionnel in the upscale Swiss city.

All five men denied wrongdoing and their lawyers asked for acquittals. Appeals are likely if any are convicted.

WHO IS SHEIKH AHMAD?

One of the most influential Olympic officials of the past decade known as the “kingmaker” of international sports elections.

Since 1991 he’s led the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) created by his father. One year later he joined the International Olympic Committee whose members elect host cities.

Sheikh Ahmad’s influence grew in 2012 when he was elected president of ANOC, the global group of 206 national Olympic committees. He also chaired an IOC panel that distributes hundreds of millions of dollars to Olympic athletes and teams.

He was a strong supporter in the 2013 election of current IOC president Thomas Bach.

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The sheikh stepped aside — ”temporarily self-suspended” in the Olympic phrase — from the IOC and ANOC after being indicted by Geneva prosecutors in November 2018. He continues to lead the OCA.

He was also an executive committee member at FIFA from 2015-17.

As a member of Kuwait’s ruling family, the 58-year-old sheikh has been a government minister and in 2005 was secretary general of the OPEC cartel of oil-producing nations.

WHAT WAS THE CASE ABOUT?

Allegations of a coup implicating a rival faction in Kuwait’s ruling al-Sabah family.

In 2013 Sheikh Ahmad presented video footage to Kuwaiti authorities that alleged to show a former prime minister, Sheikh Nasser al-Mohammed al-Sabah, and a former speaker in parliament, Jassim al-Kharafi, discussing a coup.

The two men could have faced the death penalty for treason.

Lawyers for Sheikh Nasser al-Mohammed and the al-Kharafi family filed a criminal complaint in 2015 in Geneva, which is a world hub for commercial arbitration.

The forgery charges center on a 2014 arbitration case in Geneva, later presented to the High Court in London, that sought to verify the videos.

Prosecutors allege the five defendants took part in a sham legal dispute involving backdated documents and a shell company in Delaware they controlled that led to a staged arbitration case.

The case was “the scenario of a thriller,” a lawyer for Sheikh Nasser al-Mohammed, Jean-Pierre Jacquemoud, said in court.

Prosecutor Stéphane Grodecki said the case should focus on the alleged faked arbitration process, not the authenticity of video footage.

WHO WAS CHARGED?

Sheikh Ahmad, a Kuwaiti who prosecutors say was a trusted aide, and three lawyers based in Geneva in 2014.

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English lawyer Matthew Parish, who is being tried in his absence, faces the longest sentence of four years’ jail time.

The prosecutor asked the court to sentence aide Hamad al-Haroun to three years, with 18 months to be served and 18 months suspended. He lives in London after being granted asylum since 2014.

The arbitrator who was allegedly paid 10,000 Swiss francs ($10,900) to sign the judgment and another lawyer alleged to have worked with Parish face suspended sentences.

THE DEFENSE

Sheikh Ahmad was questioned in court on Aug. 31. He said he trusted his lawyers and signed the documents presented to him.

The sheikh — referred to often in court by his lawyer as Mr. al-Sabah — said he believed the videos were genuine. He apologized on Kuwait television in 2015.

Long-time IOC legal advisor François Carrard was due in court last week to give a statement in support of Sheikh Ahmad. A medical issue was cited for his late cancellation.

Lawyers acting separately for the two Kuwaiti defendants have shifted the focus to Parish.

Al-Haroun’s lawyer said his client was motivated by trying to protect the state of Kuwait, that he did not have qualifications and experience for an arbitration process, and had relied on Parish.

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