Court rules on sheikh's improper influence in Fifa seat vote


Court rules on sheikh's improper influence in Fifa seat vote

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

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GENEVA (AP) — Olympic powerbroker Sheikh Ahmad al-Fahad al-Sabah did try to improperly influence an election for an Asian woman soccer official to join the Fifa Council, sport's highest court ruled yesterday.

Sheikh Ahmad, who gave up his own Fifa Council seat in 2017 after being implicated in vote-buying by United States federal prosecutors, was alleged by one candidate in the April 2019 soccer election in Asia to have offered her inducements to withdraw.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) said its judges ruled the election was “subject to improper influence”. The court's statement did not identify the Kuwaiti sheikh.

The judges also decided the Asian Football Confederation failed to protect its own election from gender discrimination.

However, the court denied the request in candidate Mariyam Mohamed's appeal to have the election annulled or rerun, despite broadly agreeing with her arguments.

The inducements “were not effective”, the court said in its statement, because Mohamed “did not withdraw her candidature”.

“In that respect, while the panel found the third-party interference established, it underlined that it did not, in the end, have an effect on the elections,” CAS said.

Mohamed, a soccer official from the Maldives, lost to her opponent from Bangladesh 31-15 in the poll of Asian Football Confederation (AFC) member federations.

The winner, Mahfuza Akhter Kiron, got a four-year term representing Asia on the 37-member Fifa Council.

Each of world soccer's six continental bodies are required to elect at least one woman to Fifa's decision-making committee. Since the quota places were introduced by Fifa, men have continued to be elected to their seats without any female opponents.

Mohamed filed a formal complaint to the AFC election commission after the poll held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

She alleged the sheikh told her, in a luxury hotel meeting ahead of the vote, that she had no future in soccer if she stayed in the election. She alleged she was offered other positions in international soccer.

The CAS judges said the AFC commission's failure to make a timely investigation was a “denial of justice”.

However, the court said the commission did not have standing to annul or rerun elections.

Sheikh Ahmad's intervention in the Asian soccer elections came two years after he was implicated in a Brooklyn federal court of bribing Asian soccer officials to influence elections to positions in the AFC and Fifa. He denied wrongdoing but that case soon forced him out of an election to retain his Fifa Council seat.

Since 2018, the sheikh has been self-suspended as a member of the International Olympic Committee and head of the global group of national Olympic bodies, known as ANOC, in a separate criminal case.

He has been indicted by prosecutors in Geneva in a forgery case in Geneva, which he said was politically motivated by rivalries in Kuwait.

Sheikh Ahmad continues to run the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) regional group, which was implicated in a Brooklyn court document four years ago.

Asian soccer official Richard Lai of Guam admitted in court taking bribes and said he believed the OCA was the source of cash intended to influence soccer elections.

The sheikh could be identified in a transcript of Lai's court hearing which said “co-conspirator #2 was also the president of Olympic Council of Asia” and had been elected to Fifa's ruling committee.

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