PtG Comment 06.10.2021

One coup too many: Olympic powerbroker sentenced to prison

Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah, Olympic power broker, has been sentenced to prison in a criminal court. Investigative reporter Jens Weinreich has observed the Kuwaiti Sheikh for many years and has been threatened by the Sheikh’s aides several times. He describes the methods that brought Ahmad to power and assesses the implications of the conviction for the Sheikh and the Olympic system. Not much is likely to change.

On the day of his sentencing, he lost his smile. The always good-humoured and curly-haired IOC Sheikh looked grey and serious on his most difficult trip of all time to Switzerland on September 10, 2021. Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah, 58 years old and one of the most influential Olympic sports officials of this century, was sentenced to prison by a criminal court in Geneva, just a few dozen kilometers from the IOC headquarters in Lausanne.  

"Olympic power broker Sheikh Ahmad found guilty of forgery." This news went around the world in early September 2021.

A month later, the Association of National Olympic Committees (ANOC), where Sheikh Ahmad is still listed as president, has not yet issued a clear statement on the matter. 

The International Olympic Committee (IOC), where Ahmad is still listed as a member, has also not taken any decisive action, but has only claimed what has been claimed for many years: the so-called Ethics Commission is monitoring all developments. There was not even an official statement from the IOC but only a few words from an IOC speaker.

The Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) declared immediately after the verdict: "Following today's verdict (...) Sheikh Ahmad announced that he will step aside temporarily as President of OCA whilst he clears his name during an appeal process in the Swiss courts."

Indian Raja Randhir Singh, a good old fellow of the Sheikh and longtime IOC member, now honorary member, took over the OCA leadership ad interim as acting president.

Sheikh Ahmad had already temporarily resigned from his functions in the IOC, including the chairmanship of the Olympic Solidarity Commission that is responsible for distributing roughly USD 500 million, and ANOC in 2018, immediately after the Swiss indictment came to light.

Mind you, only temporarily. Temporarily self-suspended is the Olympic term.

The office of Sheikh Ahmad then announced: "It should be remembered that Sheikh Ahmad has had the honour of being an IOC member for 26 years and he fully intends to continue serving the IOC again at the earliest opportunity. Sheikh Ahmad has every confidence and trust in the Swiss courts and IOC Ethics Commission’s impartial due process and that he will be completely exonerated."

IOC’s so-called Ethics Commission and the Executive Board were satisfied for the time being: "The Executive Board emphasises that the presumption of innocence prevails and recognises that Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah has taken the correct course of action with regard to the Olympic Movement."

This has been going on for years. Compare such absurd rules with those that apply to normal officials or, above all, to athletes: For example, if an athlete is found to have taken a doping substance, he or she is banned. What would happen to an athlete who was sentenced to prison for fraud? How would the federations deal with it?

We all know the answer.

Officially, the Geneva judgement should have been the end of Sheikh Ahmad's Olympic ambitions. The Sheikh can no longer become IOC president – at least that seems to be clear.

Unofficially, however, Ahmad will continue to pull the strings in numerous associations and institutions. As he has done since 2017, since he either withdrew (FIFA) or temporarily suspended himself (IOC, ANOC) in his three most important functions.

Until the Geneva criminal court's verdict, however, he remained very active as OCA president. In December 2020, for example, he managed the spectacular awarding of the Asian Games 2030 and 2034 to the then still hostile Arab brothers in Qatar and Saudi Arabia – in the spirit of "friendship, solidarity and unity".

Business as usual during self-suspension 

In the sports business, Sheikh Ahmad long hovered one level higher than Qatar's Emir Tamim Bin-Hamad Al-Thani, who has been an IOC member since 2002, and Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman Al-Saud, who has also been pumping billions into world sport for several years. In recent years, however, Emir Tamim has given his influential IOC brother Ahmad a kind of sports-political asylum in Doha. In return, Sheikh Ahmad helped to push through Qatar's interests.

This is surprising because a few years ago Qatar apparently carried out the covert espionage Operation Hawk through employees of the dubious International Center for Sport Security (ICSS) in Doha. For example, at an IOC meeting in Lausanne in the Sheikh's favorite hotel, the Beau-Rivage Palace, data was apparently extracted from the computers of Ahmad and his most important helper, Husain Al-Musallam.

According to the records, one of the objectives of Operation Hawk was to oust Sheikh Ahmad from his positions and to replace him with Qatari officials. Numerous documents on this were found in the Football Leaks dataset.

The politically highly explosive details that reveal the alleged good governance center ICSS as an espionage institution were published by Mediapart ("How Qatar used an anti-corruption organisation to spy on its rivals") and DER SPIEGEL. The ICSS then claimed: "We say categorically that no crimes have been committed by any person working with, or for the ICSS undertaking sport integrity investigations."

Time has changed. The IOC brothers Tamim and Ahmad are cooperating. For example, in spring 2019, when Sheikh Ahmad was already temporarily self-suspended, he helped to get Qatar's delegate onto the FIFA Council at the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Congress. He also offered inducements to Mariyam Mohamed (Seychelles) to withdraw her candidature for election to the AFC Executive Committee.

In the latter case, a chamber of the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) made another of many highly absurd awards in January 2021. Because Mariyam Mohamed had refused the Sheikh's unfair offer, the CAS ruled: "While the Panel found the third-party interference established, it underlined that it did not, in the end, have an effect on the elections." 

The art of the CAS arbitrator was not to mention the name of this third party: Sheikh Ahmad.

In October 2019, in Doha, I myself observed Sheikh Ahmad, temporarily self-suspended, receiving numerous delegates at the ANOC Congress in an office just opposite the assembly hall. Strange scenes took place. The Sheikh's aides called delegates into the office one by one. At least one of these delegates, who marched into the office with a briefcase, ensured a little later that an ethics reform in the African Olympic Committee was adjourned.

The alleged coup in Kuwait

Stories, clues and evidence about Sheikh Ahmad's dubious dealings have been around for many years. Books could be written about it.

In the summer of 2004, for example, the IOC Ethics Commission declared the Sheikh's then right-hand man, OCA Director General Ahmad Al-Muttaleb, persona non grata for corruptibility. Al-Muttaleb is also on the legendary bribe list of the marketing agency ISL as the recipient of several million Swiss Franc. ISL had once paid at least 142 million Swiss francs in bribes to the highest dignitaries of world Olympic sport.

But what was Sheik Ahmad's undoing before the criminal court in Geneva?

The Olympic Sheikh invented an alleged coup d'état in his home country Kuwait to outmanoeuvre two political rivals. The two men - a former prime minister, Sheikh Nasser Al-Mohammed Al-Sabah, and a former speaker in parliament, Jassim Al-Kharafi – could have faced a death penalty for treason.

In 2013, Sheikh Ahmad presented fake video footage and, later on, produced fake evidence with his people. This was a state affair in Kuwait a few years ago. Sheikh Ahmad had to apologise on television.

Since Sheikh Ahmad and his aides, in the course of legal disputes with Sheikh Nasser and the Al-Kharafi family, invented a sham arbitration process in Switzerland, they have now been sentenced by the criminal court in Geneva.

What is astonishing about this is that the prosecution had demanded only six months’ jail time for Sheikh Ahamad, with a further two years suspended – but the court increased the sentence and set 14 months’ jail time with a further 15 months suspended.

Another strange detail: Sheikh Ahmad’s only character witness was scheduled to be François Carrard, former director general of the IOC who continues to serve as its legal adviser. In the end, Mr. Carrard, who is also working for numerous international federations and who can be considered as the grey eminence of the Olympic movement, did not show up in court, with the court citing an unspecified medical issue.

Anyone who has ever read the 2014 secret report of Kroll's investigators (code name: Project Domfe) suspected that this time there would be no escape for the Sheikh. But the matter took many years to resolve. Kroll – a leading business intelligence and risk consulting firm – had completed the report, large parts of which form the basis of the indictment, in December 2014. Charges were brought in 2018. Now the verdict has been handed down.

Sheikh Ahmad's lawyers are filing an appeal these days. The IOC Sheikh continues to call himself innocent.

For years Sheikh Ahmad, his allies and vassals including PR firms and spin doctors, have played it down. The spin was that the Swiss indictment was a private matter, was an internal Kuwaiti political affair, had nothing to do with sport and was therefore not serious. 

That was enough to stall the silly so-called sports ethics committees. Yet Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah, scion of the clan that has ruled Kuwait for centuries, decided in November 2018 to put his membership of the IOC on hold. At the time, the ANOC General Assembly met at the Grand Prince Hotel New Takanawa in Tokyo, and ANOC President Sheikh Ahmad bid farewell - temporarily - with the words:

"Relax my friends.Life will continue.Nothing will change.Nothing will break our stability. The ideals of Coubertin are alive. We are family.And I promise: you will see me very soon in this family!"

That sounded like an Olympic poem.

For some it sounded like a threat.

For many, it sounded like a hope that everything will remain the same as it has been for almost three decades, since Sheikh Ahmad took over several functions in sport from his father, who died in the first Gulf War, as befits a hereditary monarchy: for example, the presidency of OCA, the membership in the IOC, as well as leadership roles in smaller but not less corrupt federations such as the Asian Handball Federation (AHF). 

Like his father, Ahmad later also took on a board position in the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA). Ahmad's father was a visionary, by the way, and his exclamination during the 1982 World Cup in Spain is unforgotten: "This FIFA is worse than the mafia!" 

The Sheikh's father had caused a scandal back then when he had ordered the Kuwaiti team off the pitch during the 1:4 against France in protest against a referee's decision.

That's how they are, the Kuwaiti sports Sheikhs. Or, in the words of Ahmad, "The ideals of Coubertin are alive."

Bans on Kuwaiti sports federations bolstered the Sheikh’s power

One of the constants that runs through the decades of Sheikh Ahmad's political and sports activities is this: Whenever he got into trouble at home in Kuwait, Kuwaiti sports federations were banned internationally on several occasions.

A reason was always found. There was often talk of political paternalism, of new laws that did not guarantee the so-called autonomy of sport. All this is nonsense, because Kuwait is a constitutional monarchy, in which even high positions in sport are awarded according to the liking of the respective rulers. Independence, autonomy does not exist there per se.

When Sheikh Ahmad had to apologise publicly in spring 2015 because of the fictitious alleged coup d'état, it was also the beginning of a discussion in Kuwait's parliament about investigating the affairs of the Olympic Council of Asia. There were allegations of large-scale corruption, theft of funds, money laundering under the patronage of Sheikh Ahmad - the whole nine yards. For example, the OCA was given a massive office and shopping complex in Salmiya in 2006, the Olympia Mall. OCA staff enjoyed diplomatic privileges. All this was in question.

So, what often happened happened again: Almost simultaneously, international sports federations, including the IOC, began to suspend Kuwait at all levels - for alleged political interference in the affairs of sport.

Those world federations whose presidents Sheikh Ahmad has led like puppets for many years were among the first to suspend Kuwait's federations in 2015: The International Handball Federation (IHF) with the Egyptian president Hassan Moustafa and the Fédération Internationale de Natation (FINA) with then president Julio César Maglione from Uruguay – and, of course, the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF, now World Athletics) with the criminal leader Lamine Diack from Senegal.

Maglione and Diack have been IOC members for many years. As I said, there is a system behind this - whenever the Sheikh had problems at home, Kuwaiti federations were ostracised internationally. Another IOC member, Patrick Hickey from Ireland, provided the Sheikh with extensive support during these difficult weeks. There are also numerous correspondences and emails between Hickey, the Sheikh and the most important Sheikh helper, Husain Al-Musallam. Hickey was a member of the IOC Executive Committee and IOC's Delegate Member for Autonomy then. More about Pat Hickey in a moment.

A former US ambassador’s reading of the Sheik

Incidentally, highly interesting documents on this – Kuwait’s sport suspensions – surfaced in the Wikileaks as early as 2010. For example, the former US ambassador to Kuwait had noted:

"Rather than serving as a symbol of national pride, Kuwaiti soccer is steeped in controversy. At the centre of this turmoil is KOC president Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad, who is also the president of the National Security Bureau (NSB). Running the Kuwaiti national soccer programme is viewed as a birth-right for Sheikh Ahmad, whose father, the only Kuwaiti ruling family member killed during the August 1990 Iraqi invasion - and brother Sheikh Talal also served as KOC presidents. Sheikh Ahmad inherited KOC upon his father's death and ran the organisation until his 2001 cabinet appointment as Information Minister, when he turned it over to Sheikh Talal. (...)""Through the 1990s, until his 2001 appointment as Minister of Information, Sheikh Ahmad was sovereign over Kuwaiti sports, chairing the KOC, the KFF, and the Asian Olympic Committee, exploiting these posts to develop political support from a broad base of Kuwaiti youth and sports fans. (...)"

"Subsequent laws and amendments - rare commodities in a time of GOK legislative dysfunction - directly targeted the Fahad dynasty by limiting the number of sports-related positions that could be held by one official. Other laws pushed through parliament decentralized sports governance by requiring one member from each of Kuwait's existing sports clubs to serve on the KOC board. The results of these actions undermined the Fahads' collective authority; the valuable leverage previously enjoyed over elections migrated to Kuwait's Football Federation."

When there were problems for Ahmad, FIFA would suspend Kuwait's national team, and not just once. Ahmad would then sort things out at the international level with his buddies in FIFA, the IOC or other federations - and sell himself as a saviour at home. 

Again from the Wikileaks Cables: "Sheikh Ahmad's success in getting Kuwait's suspended soccer team back on the field is only the latest in a series of manoeuvres designed to move him up the political ladder. In a country that does not permit political parties, football is the perfect vehicle for expanding one's political base, transcending as it does the tribal affiliations and sectarian divides that characterize this and other traditional societies."

No interest in former ANOC president’s condemnation of the Sheikh

In 2012, two years after the Wikileaks were published, one of the world's most powerful sports lords wrote a kind of open letter on the machinations of Sheikh Ahmad. It was the filthy rich Mexican Mario Vázquez Raña, founding president of ANOC, who was well versed in dubious dealings.

When Don Mario, as the world called him, stepped down as ANOC president in spring 2012 after 33 years, he exposed two IOC members who were vying to succeed him: Patrick Hickey from Ireland and Sheikh Ahmad.

Mario Vázquez Raña attributed dubious qualities to "these persons and their allies“: "disloyalty, obscure alliances", "lack of ethics and principles", "shady alliances and questionable procedures, the betrayal and assault to ANOC and its governing structures." 

This is how Don Mario judged his IOC colleague Patrick Hickey: "I clearly pointed out that I do not consider him a person with the minimum ethical and moral qualities to fulfil that responsibility. I said it at the proper time and today I sustain it and rightly so, that Mr. Patrick Hickey is not the qualified person and does not have the necessary qualities to represent the National Olympic Committees at the IOC Executive Board."

On Sheikh Al-Sabah, Mario Vázquez Raña wrote, among other things: "It is commented, quite strongly, that in order to secure support to his ambitious plans and be able to count on the necessary votes, the Sheikh delivered 50 thousand convincing reasons to some sports leaders."

ANOC Senior Vice President Patrick Hickey presents ANOC President Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah with an award at the the XX ANOC General Assembly 2015. Photo: Larry French/Getty Images.

In other social spheres, such an explosive letter might have triggered an earthquake, perhaps even a criminal investigation. The Olympic family, however, moved swiftly on to business as usual. The IOC Ethics Commission was not really interested. 

Don Mario had also noted this: "It is worth noting that His Excellency Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah, who wants to preside ANOC, comes from a country whose National Olympic Committee has been suspended by the IOC for several years due to contradictions with its government. The Sheikh would have to be asked with what moral authority he intends to lead the National Olympic Committees worldwide."

But no one was interested. A month after the Mexican's resignation, the ANOC General Assembly met in Moscow: Sheikh Al-Sabah became president. Hickey became senior vice-president and joined the Executive Committee of the IOC as ANOC’s representative. All according to the plan.

Five sports-political successes

Then in 2013, Sheikh Ahmad really ran riot. His reputation as the most influential Olympic string-puller, as the kingmaker, was greatly polished with these five sports-political successes:

  1. The German Thomas Bach became IOC president – vigorously supported by the Sheikh.
  2. Tokyo became the Olympic host city in 2020 - backed by the Sheikh.
  3. The Romanian Marius Vizer became president of the Global Association of International Sport Federations (GAISF, then called Sportaccord) - supported by the Sheikh. His allies, by the way, announced the exact voting results on the eve of the elections.
  4. Buenos Aires became host of the 2018 Youth Olympic Games - supported by the Sheikh.
  5. Wrestling remained in the Olympic programme and yet was not cancelled - with the Sheikh's approval.

Among many other documents I have once published an email from the Taiwanese Ching Kuo-Wu, then member of IOC’s Executive Board and president of the International Boixing Association (AIBA) to a confidant. The day after the election of the new IOC president, in September 2013, Ching Kuo-Wu wrote from Buenos Aires: "The Sheikh's manipulation is too obvious. The IOC is in trouble." On the very same day, right after I had been physically threatened by some of the Sheikh’s servants, as has been common practice, Mr. Wu told me: "Be careful, these guys are dangerous!"

A year later, in autumn 2014 in Bangkok, Sheikh Ahmad and Hickey were confirmed in their ANOC posts by acclamation until 2018. It was the last so-called election in the association of now 206 National Olympic Committees.

In February 2015, Mario Vázquez Raña died.

In December 2015, Sheikh Ahmad was sentenced to six months in prison at home. He successfully appealed against this sentence. And Kuwait had already been suspended again by the IOC and more than a dozen Olympic world federations.

At the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Kuwaiti athletes had to compete as independent athletes - due to the suspension. The shooter Fehaid Al-Deehani, officer at the Kuwaiti army, refused to carry the Olympic flag at the opening ceremony. Five days later Al-Deehani won the first gold medal ever for his country.

A week later, Patrick Hickey, IOC Executive Board member, ANOC vice president and president of the European Olympic Committees (EOC) was arrested at the IOC hotel at Barra da Tijuca. Brazilian prosecutor Marcos Kac charged Hickey with criminal organisation, ticket touting, ambush marketing, larceny, money laundering, and tax evasion. Four months later, Hickey was allowed to leave Brazil on bail. The $425,000 bail was paid by ANOC. The money was given to Hickey on "humanitarian grounds“. Sheikh Ahmad saw to that.

A trial is still pending. Hickey lawyers claim there is no evidence against their client. Prosecutor Kac recently said in the Irish Independent that the defence was delaying proceedings. The Hickey case is "very much still active", Kac was quoted. "All evidence is now before the courts and a judge will decide on the outcome. It is far from over as far as I am concerned."

Patrick Hickey, now 76, faces between seven and eleven years in prison. Brazil has no extradition treaty with Ireland. Hickey is still an IOC member. The IOC has also listed him as temporarily self-suspended for five years now. 

In all these years, it has been claimed that the Ethics Commission is following the matter closely. Nothing is known of its own investigations. No consequences have been drawn. This is not much different with Hickey than with Sheikh Ahmad.

The indictment that was ignored

In April 2017, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) released the indictment against AFC official Richard Lai of Guam as part of the huge FIFA case. Lai had received about one million dollars in bribes from officials called co-conspirators in the indictment.

They were easily identifiable by their functions

  • Co-conspirator #1 was Mohamed Bin Hammam from Qatar, who has been banned for life by FIFA. 
  • Co-conspirator #2 was Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah. 
  • Co-conspirator #3 was Ahmad's main aide at the time, Husain Al-Musallam, director general of the OCA and now, president of International Swimming Federation FINA and general secretary of the National Olympic Committee of Kuwait (KOC). 

Richard Lai had confessed extensively. The payments are well documented.




Extract from Lai's plea

Part of the bribe money was transferred from Olympic accounts - from accounts of the OCA and ANOC. I revealed the latter in the summer of 2017 in the news magazine DER SPIEGEL together with colleagues from the London Times. In early September 2021 Graham Dunbar from the AP revealed that Sheikh Ahmad and Al-Musallam have been targeted by the DOJ for suspected racketeering and bribery.

However, the Olympic family ignored the facts for years in a bizarre mixture of ignorance and solidarity. Indictments and many other documents were not read. In the Olympic Council of Asia, the Sheikh had once personally ordered the appointment of the Ethics Committee. As expected, the alleged ethics chief Jizhong Wei from China, another puppet, acquitted Ahmad of all charges twice. I questioned Jizhong Wei about this. He admitted he had not read any of the legal documents, neither the DOJ indictment nor the indictment in Switzerland.

"Sheikh explained to me what it was all about," Wei told me.

Case closed.

I also asked, back in 2018 in Tokyo, the two ANOC executives Gunilla Lindberg (Sweden) and Robin Mitchell (Fiji) about this. Both IOC members, secretary general and interim president of ANOC, also stated then that they had not read any court documents, not those from the USA and not those from Switzerland.

I could mention other names of other IOC members who were never interested in such documents. It may be that they have smartened up in the meantime, but there is nothing to suggest that any consequences have been drawn.

Since June 2021, Hans Natorp has been president of Danmarks Idrætsforbund (DIF), which also performs the functions of the National Olympic Committee. "It is disappointing that we have not yet received a proper statement from the ANOC on the Al-Sabah case," says Natorp. "I expect a dossier to be presented to us no later than the ANOC congress in Crete in a month's time."

Until then, Natorp wants to hold back on assessments of the case.

Danish sports officials are occasionally, not consistently, among the champions of good governance in international sport. But when it came to Sheikh Al-Sabah, nothing was heard from them at the big congresses for years. Just as the Germans, the British, the French, the Americans - some of the major Olympic nations - had no veto whatsoever. They did not oppose.

Complicity by looking the other way and being silent.

Frightening. Indicative. Embarrassing. Sad. Unacceptable.

The one sports official who kept asking questions

There was only one sports official in the world who kept insisting. One out of 206 nations. That was Alfred Emmanuel, secretary general of the NOC of the Caribbean island of St. Lucia.

He demanded to be informed about all details of the DOJ indictment at the ANOC assembly in Prague in 2017. At that time, ANOC passed a resolution in favour of the Sheikh without a public presentation of what is in the DOJ indictment that lists him as a bribe payer.

Alfred Emmanuel also wanted to know exactly what would become of the bail of almost half a million dollars for Patrick Hickey. This money was eventually taken from the sports circuit, it was supposed to be used to support athletes in small nations. ANOC basically wrote off the money.

In 2018 at the ANOC congress in Tokyo, Alfred Emmanuel insisted again - and was almost alone in the fray. In contrast, many of the Sheikh's claqueurs operated and even demanded that Ahmad be re-elected president despite the then very fresh criminal charges in Switzerland.

"I don't understand it," Alfred Emmanuel told me in Tokyo at the time. "It's a disgrace to the Olympic family. People don't want to know."

After the meeting, he said, Tricia Smith came to him, the NOC president of Canada, and apologised. Smith, who is also a member of the IOC, said he should please understand if she does not speak out publicly for tactical reasons.

Like Dane Hans Natorp, Alfred Emmanuel expects a dossier to be available and the case debated at the next General Assembly at the end of October.

"The verdict by the Swiss court must be respected at this time. I believe the judges went through all the evidence presented by all sides and made a decision based on that. That said Sheikh Ahmad’s right to an appeal must also be respected at this time."

Elections are not scheduled for the upcoming General Assembly in Crete at the end of October 2021. Interim president Robin Mitchell can serve until 2022, which would be a full four-year term.

"ANOC must make a decision regarding next year's election," demands Alfred Emmanuel.

"Will it open up the post of President and finish with an acting position? I hope the assembly will make a firm decision on this matter in Crete. Such a decision will give everyone including Sheikh Ahmad ample time to make up their minds on their future relationship with ANOC and the sporting world."

So this diplomatic note comes from the one man who has been the only one out of 206 nations to pursue this matter over the years and who has repeatedly annoyed the leading officials with it.

That says a lot about the Olympic family.

Many questions are unanswered

And what is happening in the other federations and organisations where the Sheikh has been up to mischief? For example, as the secret ruler of the FINA or the IHF?

For many years, two of the Sheik's vassals ruled FINA and the IHF: Julio Maglione and Hassan Moustafa. Maglione has since been replaced as FINA president by Husain al-Musallam, the Sheikh's long-time key associate. Moustafa will serve another term in the IHF.

And what happens in small federations that the Sheikh runs on the side, like the Asian Handball Federation? What happens to the hundreds of people the Sheikh has sponsored, sometimes in disreputable ways? How many Richard Lai cases are there? Dozens? Hundreds? Thousands? How much money from the OCA, ANOC and other institutions that was supposed to be used to promote athletes has been diverted in such a way over the decades?

So far, only the Department of Justice in the US has taken an interest and been able to investigate Lai because, as a citizen of Guam, he also has US citizenship and because the bribe money was paid in US dollars. Other federations on other continents have not been investigated - although the Sheikh's affairs are closely watched by investigators in several countries. And the Olympic Council of Asia seems to be one of the most dubious sports institutions, considering the many scandalous events over decades.

The shadow of the Sheikh is long. No one should assume Sheikh Ahmad will vacate the field without a fight. He can still be a kingmaker without having functions. He has superior knowledge of many officials and federations. Additionally, it turned out that his OCA servants recorded conversations in secret. This was apparently common practice there.

This is nothing but a gigantic, global thriller.

Incidentally, should Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah be unsuccessful in his appeal, he need not fear a penal sentence. Because there is no extradition treaty between Switzerland and Kuwait.

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