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Olympic member Sheikh Ahmad has conviction for forgery upheld on appeal though won't serve jail time

GENEVA (AP) — Long-time Olympic power broker Sheikh Ahmad of Kuwait had his conviction for forgery upheld on appeal, a Swiss court said in a ruling published Monday, though he will not serve jail time for his part in a coup plot to implicate public rivals at home.

Sheikh Ahmad al-Fahad al-Sabah, his English former lawyer, a Kuwaiti aide and a lawyer based in Geneva had their convictions from September 2021 upheld on charges linked to orchestrating a sham arbitration case a decade ago. Another lawyer was acquitted on appeal.

“Ahmad al-Sabah acted with the purpose of obtaining an illicit advantage,” the appeal court in the canton (State) of Geneva judged, and had financed the fraudulent process with the intent “to restore his reputation in Kuwait.”

The sheikh, an International Olympic Committee member since 1992 and a former close ally of its president Thomas Bach, had been sentenced at his original trial to almost 14 months in prison with a further 15 months suspended.

The appeal court judges in Geneva changed that to a suspended sentence of two years for a probationary period of three years.

Sheikh Ahmad has denied wrongdoing and can appeal to the Swiss federal tribunal in the IOC’s home city, Lausanne.

The 188-page Geneva ruling was dated Dec. 18 but published by the court Monday, days after Sheikh Ahmad had lost a position in front-line politics in Kuwait. He was formally replaced as the oil-rich state’s defense minister last week.

Long known as a “kingmaker” in Olympic elections, including campaigning for Bach’s first presidential win in 2013, Sheikh Ahmad self-suspended as an IOC member after being indicted in Geneva more than five years ago.

The IOC did not formally suspend him after his first conviction in September 2021 – that move was eventually made last year when the sheikh got involved in an Olympic Council of Asia presidential election trying to get his brother elected to succeed him.

The IOC said in a statement that its ethics commission, which already suspended the sheikh for three years until 2026, “is reviewing the situation following the judgment” in Geneva.

The high-end Swiss lakeside city is a global hub for commercial arbitration cases of the kind Sheikh Ahmad was judged to have faked in the case a decade ago.

In 2013 he presented video footage to Kuwaiti authorities that alleged to show a former prime minister, Sheikh Nasser al-Mohammed al-Sabah, and a former speaker in parliament, Jassim al-Kharafi, discussing a coup.

The two men could have faced the death penalty for treason, the appeal court noted.

Lawyers for Sheikh Nasser al-Mohammed and the al-Kharafi family filed a criminal complaint in Geneva relating to the arbitration case. The arbitration later judged to be fake was then presented to the High Court in London as part of a process that sought to verify the videos.

Prosecutors said the sham legal dispute involved backdated documents and a shell company in Delaware the defendants controlled.

Sheikh Ahmad also was a senior FIFA official from 2015-17 until withdrawing his candidacy for re-election when implicated by federal prosecutors in Brooklyn in steering bribes to soccer officials. He denied wrongdoing and was not indicted.

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