FIFA Council member Sheikh Ahmad Al Fahad Al Sabah of Kuwait is resigning from his football roles after allegations in an American federal court that he bribed Asian officials.
On Sunday, the sheikh said in a statement that he would withdraw from the May 8 election in Bahrain for the Asia council seat he currently holds.
“I do not want these allegations to create divisions or distract attention from the upcoming AFC [Asian Football Confederation] and FIFA congresses,” Sheikh Ahmad, who denies any wrongdoing, said.
“Therefore, after careful consideration, I have decided it is in the best interests of FIFA and the AFC for me to withdraw my candidacy for the FIFA Council and resign from my current football positions.”
Sheikh Ahmad, who has been Olympic Council of Asia president since 1991, contacted the ethics panels of FIFA and the IOC after the allegations were made in a Brooklyn court on Thursday.
They came as FIFA audit committee member Richard Lai, an American citizen from Guam, pleaded guilty to wire fraud conspiracy charges related to bribes that helped officials gain influence in international football.
Although Sheikh Ahmad was not named in Department of Justice and Brooklyn court documents, Lai’s hearing transcript quoted him saying “co-conspirator #2 was also the president of the Olympic Council of Asia.”
Co-conspirator #3 was described as having a “high-ranking” role at OCA, and also being linked to the Kuwait football federation.
According to the published transcript, Lai claimed he “received at least $770,000 in wire transfers from accounts associated with Co-Conspirator #3 and the OCA between November of 2009 and about the fall of 2014.”
The transcript read: “I understood that the source of this money was ultimately Co-Conspirator #2 and on some occasion Co-Conspirator #3 told me to send him an email saying that I need funds so he could show the email to Co-Conspirator #2.”
Lai admitted that he agreed to help recruit other Asian officials who voted in FIFA elections who would help Kuwait’s interests.
The Guam federation leader since 2001, he pleaded guilty to wire fraud conspiracy charges and failing to disclose foreign bank accounts.
He agreed to pay more than $1.1 million in forfeiture and penalties, and will be sentenced at a later date.
Meanwhile, the FIFA ethics committee is making a separate assessment of whether to provisionally suspend Sheikh Ahmad, who was elected to the governing body’s ruling committee in 2015.
Resigning from his football positions does not necessarily put the sheikh out of reach of FIFA ethics prosecutors and judges if action is taken.
In 2012, former FIFA presidential candidate Mohamed bin Hammam of Qatar was banned for life by the ethics committee days after he resigned.
Bin Hammam was also clearly identified in Lai’s court hearing as having paid Lai a total of $100,000 in bribes to support the Qatari’s failed challenge to…