Official at Both FIFA and IOC Resigns From Soccer-Related Roles Amidst Bribery Claims

The DOJ has indicted or accepted guilty pleas from more than 40 people since it opened its investigation on FIFA in 2015. That tally could soon jump significantly.
April 30, 2017, 8:36pm
Sheikh Ahmad Al Fahad Al Ahmed Al Sabah during the 2015 ANOC Awards at DAR Constitution Hall. Photo by Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) president Sheikh Amad Al Fahad Al Sabah of Kuwait announced his resignation from his position on FIFA's governing council today amidst bribery allegations, according to the Associated Press. Yet he still denies all accusations of his involvement.

While the allegations pertain only to soccer, Sheikh Ahmad's position straddling both FIFA and the IOC—and particularly his close connection with IOC president Thomas Bach—creates something of a bridge between the two sports governing bodies, known for their rampant corruption.

Sheikh Ahmad's business practices were put into question on Thursday, after he was all-but named in connection with an open case being prosecuted in Brooklyn by the U.S. Department of Justice. FIFA audit and compliance committee member Richard Lai, an American citizen from Guam, recently pleaded guilty to wire fraud, conspiracy charges, and taking over $1 million in bribes—with at least $850,000 exclusively from Kuwaiti officials. In court transcripts, Lai made reference to "Co-conspirator #2 [who] was also the president of Olympic Council of Asia," a profile that doesn't call out Sheikh Ahmad by name, but could only describe one person.

FIFA President Gianni Infantino released a statement Sunday, saying "I want to thank [Sheikh Ahmad] for taking this decision, which certainly was not easy to take but is in the best interest for FIFA." Sheikh Ahmad will withdraw from the May 8 election that would have helped him keep his position with FIFA, representing Asia. He has been president of OCA since 1991 and on the FIFA council since 2015.

According to The Associated Press, Sheikh Ahmad has contacted not only the FIFA ethics committee, but also the IOC ethics committee in the wake of the allegations. Despite his resignation, the FIFA Ethics Committee would have to make a separate assessment of whether to provisionally suspend or even prosecute Sheikh Ahmad.

Moreover, the allegations against Sheikh Ahmad have migrated the DOJ's investigation into a new territory: Asia. This could have significant impact on the region's sporting authority, particularly with its loose boundaries between the soccer world and the Olympics. Currently, the DOJ has accepted guilty pleas or indicted more than 40 people since it opened its investigation on FIFA in 2015. That tally could soon jump significantly.