Report: FINA President Husain Al-Musallam Subject of Renewed Interest in U.S. Corruption Probe


Report: FINA President Husain Al-Musallam Subject of Renewed Interest in U.S. Corruption Probe

FINA President Husain Al-Musallam is the subject of renewed interest by the United States in its investigation of global sports corruption, the Associated Press revealed on Thursday.

The primary target of the investigation, which began in 2017 as an offshoot of the larger FIFA corruption scandal, is reported to be Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Ahmed Al-Sabah. He is regarded as a “kingmaker” in International Olympic Committee elections for the power he wields, including in the election of current IOC president Thomas Bach, and has been targeted with allegations of bribery and racketeering.

The documents that the AP revealed this week included a request from the U.S. embassy in Kuwait, on behalf of the Department of Justice, to local authorities for all information on Sheikh Ahmad, Al-Musallam and several others. It was dated June 7, 2017, and delivered in September of that year. The scope of materials it asked for stretched back to at least 2009.

Sheikh Ahmad told the AP this week that he asked the Kuwaiti authorities then to give the U.S. any and all information as, “I have nothing to hide.”

From the AP report:

The DOJ document seen by the AP details payments totaling about $1 million from Kuwait — wired from personal accounts held by three of the men and Olympic organizations run by the sheikh — to a FIFA official from Guam. That man, U.S. citizen Richard Lai, admitted to financial conspiracy charges in federal court in April 2017 and agreed to pay $1.1 million in penalties. He has yet to be sentenced.

It is not a secret that Al-Musallam carried allegations of wrongdoing into the FINA president’s office. But he has strenuously maintained that they are just allegations. As recently as during the Tokyo Olympics, he reiterated that he has not been questioned by the American government over its claims. He was named as a potential co-conspirator in a report by the Times of London in the spring of 2017, which predated the U.S. DOJ’s formal request, for alleged financial connections to Lai.

That hasn’t delayed Al-Musallam’s ascent. The first Asian nominee for the FINA presidency, he’s been a member of the FINA Bureau since 1996 and its first vice president. He’s also the secretary general of the Kuwait Olympic Committee. He was specifically cleared by the Asian Swimming Federation’s Ethics Committee to participate in the FINA presidential election. It wasn’t the first time he’s wandered into the crosshairs of the ethics boards.

FINA did not comment on the issue Thursday with the AP, and the IOC declined to comment.

Sheikh Ahmad, 58, is a long-time IOC member and former member of the FIFA executive committee. He’s the president of the Association of National Olympic Committees (ANOC). He also wields considerable power within the 46-member Asian Football Confederation (AFC).

Sheikh Ahmed has been the president of the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) since 1991. Al Musallam was involved with the OCA since 1982, spent 16 years as its director general and rose to the executive board in 2003. Two of the other named parties, Reza Charim and Vahid Kardany, are Iranians who worked for the OCA. (Kardany is now the deputy general secretary of the AFC and based in Malaysia.) OCA and other personal bank accounts were used to wire money to Lai, which is what the DOJ is investigating.

Husain Al-Musallam could be formally identified as a co-conspirator in that case if charges are brought. The 2017 memo said that federal prosecutors in New York were investigating if Sheikh Ahmad and others, “have violated United States criminal laws by making, accepting, and/or facilitating bribes, kickbacks and other types of illicit payments to (FIFA officials) and laundering such bribe payments and proceeds, conduct which also constitutes racketeering.”

Sheikh Ahmad is currently standing trial in Geneva on an unrelated dispute between factions in the Kuwaiti royal family. He was indicted three years ago in that case and stepped away temporarily from the IOC and ANOC.

The U.S. last week declared FIFA as victims in bribery and other illegal activities by its members, finding that it should receive up to $200 million in cash seized as part of investigations that first game into public view in 2015. That move was part of a refocusing by the Department of Justice on the FIFA case that had lapsed somewhat during the previous presidential administration.