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Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Singh named OCA chief after Sheikh Ahmad convicted

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Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad NEW DELHI: Veteran Indian sports administrator Raja Randhir Singh yesterday took over as head of the Olympic Council of Asia after its former Kuwaiti leader was sentenced to jail in a forgery case. Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah, a member of Kuwait’s ruling family, stepped aside as Asia’s top sports official after the Geneva court found him guilty on Friday over a plot against political rivals in the state.

Singh, 74, said in a statement he was taking over as interim president as the longest serving member of the OCA executive. “I have every confidence that Sheikh Ahmad will be successful in his appeal,” Singh said, adding that he would seek “to ensure the continued smooth running of the organization in the critical period ahead.”

Asia will host the 2022 Winter Olympics in China in February and has just started the one-year countdown to the Asian Games in the Chinese city of Hangzhou. Singh, a former Olympic shooter, was a member of the International Olympic Committee executive until 2015 and helped bring events such as the 2010 Commonwealth Games to India.

Sheikh Ahmad had been one of the most powerful sports bosses in the world until his court troubles erupted. He was handed a 30-month prison sentence for the alleged plot, half of which was suspended. Five defendants, including Sheikh Ahmad, were found guilty over a forgery scheme linked to efforts to show that Kuwait’s former prime minister and  parliament speaker were guilty of coup-plotting and corruption.

Sheikh Ahmad denied any wrongdoing and said after the sentence was delivered that he would appeal. His office said he would “temporarily step aside” from his OCA role “until he  has successfully appealed today’s verdict”. He stepped down from the IOC in 2018 when the charges were laid.

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

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 fictitious 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 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 Khorafi, who died in May that year. The Khorafi 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”. – AFP

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