GENEVA - Facing a criminal trial in Switzerland, Olympic powerbroker Sheikh Ahmad al-Fahad al-Sabah temporarily stepped aside from his IOC work on Monday.
The Kuwaiti sheikh denies wrongdoing but said in a statement he did not want “these politically motivated allegations to distract attention” from the Olympic movement's work.
“Sheikh Ahmad has every confidence and trust in the Swiss courts and IOC Ethics Commission's impartial due processes,” the statement from his personal office in Kuwait said. “He fully intends to continue serving the IOC again at the earliest opportunity.”
The sheikh has been indicted for forgery in Geneva and faces a prison sentence of up to 10 years, city daily Le Temps reported. The investigation arose from a dispute with another royal family member, who is a former prime minister of Kuwait.
Sheikh Ahmad has been an International Olympic Committee member for 26 years, a close ally of IOC president Thomas Bach, and leads the global and Asian groups of national Olympic bodies. He also chairs an IOC panel which will give $500 million to Olympic bodies and athletes before the 2020 Tokyo Games.
He is due to be re-elected unopposed in Tokyo next week as president of the global Olympic group known as ANOC.
The IOC said in a statement its ethics panel can intervene for misconduct “even if it is not related to sport.”
The Olympic ethics panel had confirmed last year it was studying separate allegations against Sheikh Ahmad relating to bribery in international soccer elections.
Sheikh Ahmad left the FIFA Council days after being identified in April 2017 as “co-conspirator 2” in American federal court documents.
The spinoff case of the U.S. Department of Justice's sprawling investigation of corruption linked to FIFA detailed payments from the Olympic Council of Asia to win influence with soccer officials. A member of the FIFA audit committee from Guam pleaded guilty and said he understood “co-conspirator 2” was the source of the bribes.
The Geneva public prosecutor's investigation was first reported in 2016 by Le Temps. It reported late Friday that an indictment was filed this month against the sheikh and four others, including three lawyers.
During an alleged political rivalry between Sheikh Ahmad and Sheikh Nasser al-Sabah, a video circulated on social media in 2013 seeming to implicate the former prime minister.
It is claimed Sheikh Ahmad and lawyers acting for him later took part in a false arbitration case held in Geneva, staged to try to prove the authenticity of the video.
Kuwaiti authorities later ruled against Sheikh Ahmad and he read a public apology on national television in 2015. In fallout that year, Kuwait was suspended by FIFA and the IOC over a proposed law which broke their rules prohibiting government interference in sports.
Still, Sheikh Ahmad continued to have some influence within FIFA - sitting on an anti-corruption reform panel in 2015 - and a greater say in Olympic affairs as a trusted Bach supporter.