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Asian federation set to investigate Lai corruption claims

Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah. Photo by Mark Runnacles/Getty Images for ANOC
by Keir Radnedge, AIPS Football Commission Chairman

LONDON, May 17, 2017 - Olympic powerbroker Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah could come under scrutiny from an Asian football investigation into allegations arising from the United States’ FIFAGate corruption process.

This follows the apparent identification of Sheikh Ahmad with close associates Husain Al-Musallam and Asian Football Confederation Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al-Khalifa in New York Court admissions from Richard Lai.

The latter, president of the Guam Football Association, has been suspended from all football activities by the ethics committee of world federation FIFA pending its own further investigation.

Lai, until last week a member of the FIFA audit and compliance committee and the AFC finance committee, has admitted receiving around $1m in bribes from sports sources in Qatar and Kuwait.

Now the AFC has announced that its newly-appointed head of integrity, Mohammad Ali Al Kamali, has recommended “the opening of an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the prosecution of . . . Richard Lai.”

An AFC statement, explaining the background, said: “On April 27, Lai pleaded guilty to two counts of wire fraud conspiracy with regards to the 2011 FIFA presidential election and an attempt to gain control of the AFC and influence FIFA.

“He also admitted to a charge of wilful failure to file reports of foreign bank and financial accounts.”

Kamali, from the United Arab Emirates, is not only the AFC’s head integrity head but also one of the new members of the FIFA ethics committee.

He said: “The allegations contained in Richard Lai’s indictment are, if substantiated, extremely serious. The AFC, which has placed good governance and integrity at the centre of its Vision and Mission, is duty bound to investigate.”

The recommendation is significant not only in its own right but because Asian football’s governing body is even taking such a step.

Sources within world football and the Olympic movement have conceded private concerns about how many more allegations will emerge concerning senior figures in Asian and even African sport.

Sheikh Ahmad is a member of the Kuwait ruling royal family, president of both the Association of National Olympic Committees and the Olympic Council of Asia as well as head of the cash-distributing Olympic Solidarity.

Al-Musallam is both secretary-general of the Olympic Council of Asia and first vice-president of world swimming federation FINA.

Sheikh Salman was apparently identified by Lai only as a then-prospective AFC election candidate and was not implicated in the direct corruption allegations.

All have denied wrongdoing.

Sheikh Ahmad has referred himself to the ethics committee of the International Olympic Committee and last week withdrew his bid for re-election from the AFC to the governing FIFA Council.

Al-Musallam has said he has asked the OCA Ethics Committee to investigate.

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