Fifa: Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah resigns following denial of any wrongdoing

High-ranking Fifa official Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah has resigned a day after denying claims linking him to a fraud case.

Following the release of court documents, Kuwaiti Sheikh Ahmad was linked in media reports to Richard Lai, the Fifa audit and compliance committee member who was banned for bribery.

Lai admitted taking $950,000 (£735,000) in bribes in a US Court on Thursday.

In a statement, Ahmad said he “vigorously” denies any wrongdoing.

The 53-year-old, a member of both Fifa’s ruling council and president of the Olympic Council of Asia, had admitted on Saturday to being aware of the media speculation but said he was “very surprised” by the allegations.

Court documents in Lai’s case did not not directly name Sheikh Ahmad but referred to someone who “at various times” was a “high-ranking official of Fifa, the Kuwait Football Association (KFA), and the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA)”.

And in a second statement announcing his resignation, Ahmad said it was in Fifa’s “best interests” for him to go.

“With regards to alleged illegal payments to Richard Lai, I can only refer to my previous statement and vigorously deny any wrongdoing,” it read.

“I intend to work with all relevant authorities to disprove these for me totally surprising allegations.

“However, I do not want these allegations to create divisions or distract attention from the upcoming AFC (Asian Football Confederation) and Fifa congresses.

“Therefore, after careful consideration, I have decided it is in the best interests of Fifa and the AFC for me to withdraw my candidacy for the Fifa council and resign from my current football positions.

“I have been honoured to serve on the Fifa council, Fifa reform committee and AFC for the last two years and I will continue to support the family of football once these allegations have been disproved.”

Lai, president of the Guam Football Association and a US citizen, admitted two counts of wire fraud conspiracy – relating to accepting and paying bribes – and one count of failing to disclose foreign bank accounts.

He agreed to pay more than $1.1m (£850,000) in forfeiture and penalties.

Analysis

BBC Radio 5 live sports news correspondent Richard Conway

Sheikh Ahmad Al-Sabah is one of the most powerful sports officials in the world. And chances are you’ve probably never heard of him.

That’s the way he likes it. He is a man who operates in the shadows.

The Kuwaiti was a powerbroker in Fifa and the Asian Football Confederation. As it stands he still holds sway within the Olympic movement.

He helped Thomas Bach get elected as IOC president in 2013, leveraging his position as president of the Olympic Council of Asia to deliver key votes for the German.

There was intriguingly no mention in his statement about his Olympic jobs though, showing he may want to cling on there.

However, his resignation from football will help Fifa and the AFC limit the damage these allegations have caused.

Ahmad was identified in a US court case as allegedly giving bribes to another football official in return for votes and support. He denies any wrongdoing but his resignation from all of his football positions may now stop altogether, or at least delay, a lengthy and embarrassing ethics investigation from taking place.

Football’s world governing body, trying to reassert its moral authority after years of financial and political scandal, will be thankful one of its top officials has gone relatively quietly.

However, there may be more pain to still to come. The US court case which prompted Ahmad to walk away marked a potentially significant move into alleged wrongdoing by Asian football officials for the first time.

Fifa president Gianni Infantino has already declared that the crisis for his organisation is over – Sheikh Ahmad’s resignation shows there is quite clearly still some way to go before that rings true.

Source: BBC

Comments