Powerful Sheikh forced to issue public apology after corruption case backfires.
The image and influence of football and Olympic powerbroker Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah has been shaken following a spectacular falling-out within Kuwait’s ruling family after a corruption case backfired.
Sheikh Ahmad was decisive in the elevation of Sheikh Salman Ebrahim Al Khalifa to the leadership of the Asian Football Confederation two years ago; he was also influential in supporting Thomas Bach when the German won the International Olympic Committee presidency in 2013.
However a domestic embarrassment in Kuwait has indicated that his power base may not be as secure as had been thought after he had to concede a public, televised apology to his uncle the Emir, Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah.
Sheikh Ahmad had been perceived as untouchable within sport as president of both the Association of National Committees and the Olympic Council of Asia; he also heads the richly influential Olympic Solidarity Commission of the IOC.
He is also considered a supporter of fellow IOC member Sepp Blatter in the forthcoming FIFA presidential election and is running for a place as an AFC delegate to the FIFA exco.
Speculation is rife that the former head of international oil cartel OPEC, a strong defender of Qatar’s 2022 World Cup hosting, might use this position to promote Sheikh Salman as a FIFA presidential contender in 2019.
Early last month Sheikh Ahmad was in Male for talks with the Maldives’ President Abdulla Yameen and for an Olympic Solidarity commission meeting to discuss the worldwide allocation of development funds for 2017-2020.
However, a week later back in Kuwait, he suffered a major personal setback when the prosecutor’s office threw out damning accusations by Sheikh Ahmad against a former prime minister and a speaker of parliament.
He had claimed that ex-PM Sheikh Nasser Al-Mohammad Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah and former speaker Jassem Mohammad Abdul-Mohsem Al-Karafi had plotted to topple the government and had conspired over money laundering and misuse of public funds.
The evidence provided by Sheikh Ahmad was based on computerised documents and film records which were dismissed by the court as fabrications.
Subsequently Sheikh Ahmad, on Kuwait Television, delivered a formal, public apology not only to the two accused but to his uncle the Emir and to the Crown Prince.
He said: “I offer my deep apologies and express my profound regrets for my recent prejudice, abuse and slander, intentional and unintentional, and which were based on the information and documents concerning the interests of the country that I had received.
“I thought the information was correct and credible. But now that the competent judicial authorities affirmed they were not valid or correct, stressing the truth is a virtue.
“As I seek pardon from Your Highness, I stress that what happened will be a lesson from which I will benefit and draw appropriate conclusions.
“I am in full compliance with the orders and directives of Your Highness and I promise to turn the page on this matter and not to raise it again.”
The row is not considered as raising any doubts about Sheikh Ahmad’s roles within international sport though questions may be raised about the concentration of so much power within his hands. At the least he cannot afford any further such domestic difficulties.