Sheikh Ahmad al-Fahad al-Sabah, president of the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA), addresses the closing ceremony of the 18th Asian Games in September. Photo: Du Yu/Xinhua

GENEVA Sheikh Ahmad al-Fahad al-Sabah, a former Kuwaiti minister and one of the most powerful officials in international sports, has been charged in Switzerland with forgery, according to a corroborated media report Saturday.

Le Temps newspaper said Sheikh Ahmad stands accused with four others of an intricate forgery scheme linked to his efforts to prove that Kuwait's former prime minister and speaker of parliament were guilty of coup-plotting and corruption.

Two lawyers for different plaintiffs in the case confirmed to AFP that Sheikh Ahmad, a member of the International Olympic Committee who is close to IOC president Thomas Bach and head of the powerful Association of National Olympic Committees (ANOC), had been charged in the affair.

The Sheikh, who is also president of the Olympic Council and chair of the Olympic Solidarity Commission in charge of distributing millions of dollars to help athletes, has been accused with three lawyers and one other person of staging a fictitious arbitration in Geneva.

The aim, according to the charge sheet quoted by Le Temps, was to legitimise suspicious video recordings Sheikh Ahmad had presented in Kuwait as evidence of corrupt practices by ex-premier Sheikh Nasser Mohammad al-Ahmad al-Sabah and former parliament chief Jassem al-Khorafi.

Geneva prosecutor Stephane Grodecki "has filed charges with the (Geneva) Correctional Court against these people for having completely fabricated an arbitration in Switzerland with the goal of lending credibility in Kuwait to contested videos," Catherine Hohl-Chirazi, a lawyer representing al-Khorafi's children in the case, told AFP.

In 2014, Sheikh Ahmad, a senior member of Kuwait's ruling family and a former energy and economy minister, said he had material evidence that the senior ex-officials plotted a coup and stole tens of billions of dollars of public funds.

He presented video recordings to back up his claims, but they were deemed inadmissable after Kuwaiti security agencies said they were not authentic and had been tampered with.

Le Temps described a complex set-up, in which Sheikh Ahmad ceded the broadcast rights of the videos to Delaware firm Trekell, which allegedly is merely a shell company. 

"It was discovered that the company was a company that does not exist, that has no structure," Pascal Maurer, a lawyer for former Kuwaiti prime minister Nasser al-Sabah, told AFP.

That did not stop Trekell from filing a lawsuit claiming the videos were fake, allowing an arbitration to be set up.

In the arbitration case, a judge signed a ruling stating that the videos were authentic, in exchange for a 10,000-Swiss-franc ($10,000, 8,700-euro) payment, according to the charge sheet quoted by Le Temps. 

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.

"The only aim of this arrangement was to be able to create a fictitious lawsuit between Ahmad al-Fahad al-Sabah and Trekell Group LLC with the goal of launching a fake arbitration," the charge sheet said, according to the paper.

Maurer agreed, maintaining that the arbitration ruling was handed down "without investigation, without witnesses, without anyone" present.

The accused, he said, had "mounted this story of a fictitious lawsuit merely to support their position" about the videos.

The case against Sheikh Ahmad, who like Sheikh Nasser is a nephew of Kuwait's ruler, Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, is set to go before the Geneva court next year.

One of the other men accused in the case, who spoke to AFP on condition his name not be published, insisted that the videos at the heart of the case were authentic, and said the charges were merely part of a Kuwaiti power struggle over who will be the next emir.

"It is difficult not to see this as a bogus, politically motivated prosecution," he said.

This is not the only corruption case Sheikh Ahmad has been mixed up in.

The World sport powerbroker resigned from the FIFA council in April last year amid suspicion he was a co-conspirator of disgraced Guam football chief Richard Lai, who pleaded guilty to receiving nearly $1 million in bribes from football officials wanting his help to influence FIFA.

The Kuwaiti denied any wrongdoing, but said he would resign to avoid allowing the corruption allegations to become a distraction from the important work done by the football body.

AFP

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