Olympic power broker Sheikh Ahmad found guilty of forgery over fake coup plot

GENEVA -- Olympic power broker Sheikh Ahmad al-Fahad al-Sabah of Kuwait was found guilty Friday of forgery linked to implicating political rivals in Kuwait in a coup plot -- a verdict that puts his long career in global sports politics at risk.

Sheikh Ahmad, his English former lawyer and a Kuwaiti aide and two more lawyers were convicted on forgery charges linked to orchestrating a sham arbitration case in Geneva.

The sheikh was sentenced to almost 14 months' jail time with a further 15 months suspended in a case that has put much of his Olympic work on hold for almost three years.

"I know I didn't do anything. I will wait for the appeal [and] my rights," Sheikh Ahmad said on leaving court, adding he would return to Geneva to challenge his conviction. "I will never stop because I believe I am innocent."

The panel of three judges found they staged a legal dispute and arbitration hearing in Geneva in 2014 to gain a favorable ruling. It sought to authenticate video footage that would show two Kuwaiti politicians -- including a former prime minister -- were discussing a possible coup in the oil-rich kingdom. The two men could have faced the death penalty for treason.

Sheikh Ahmad supported the false arbitration and was its sole beneficiary, presiding judge Delphine Gonseth said.

His sentence was more severe than the public prosecutor requested: six months' jail time with a further two years suspended.

Sheikh Ahmad leads the global group of 206 national Olympic committees, known as ANOC, and earned a reputation as the "kingmaker" of Olympic and international sports elections.

He has been publicly sidelined from his Olympic leadership roles and IOC membership since he was indicted in November 2018.

Since 1991, Sheikh Ahmad has led the Olympic Council of Asia created by his father. He joined the International Olympic Committee one year later then became ANOC president in 2012. He also was an executive committee member at FIFA from 2015 to 2017.

He chaired an IOC panel that distributes hundreds of millions of dollars to Olympic athletes and teams and was a strong supporter in the 2013 election of current IOC president Thomas Bach.

The IOC said Friday that the "court decision is now being reviewed by the IOC chief ethics and compliance officer."

Sheikh Ahmad was questioned in court on Aug. 31. He said he trusted his lawyers and signed the documents presented to him.

The sheikh -- referred to often in court by his lawyer as Mr. al-Sabah -- said he believed the videos were genuine. He apologized on Kuwait television in 2015.

Longtime IOC legal adviser Francois Carrard was due in court last week to give a statement in support of Sheikh Ahmad. A medical issue was cited for his late cancellation.