FIFA President Gianni Infantino said he had “taken note” of Sheikh Ahmad’s decision to resign from FIFA, adding in a brief statement, “I want to thank him for taking this decision, which certainly was not easy to take but is in the best interest for FIFA.”
The current case involves the FIFA audit and compliance committee member Richard Lai, an American citizen from Guam, who pleaded guilty to wire fraud conspiracy charges related to taking around $1 million in bribes, including from Kuwaiti officials. The cash was to buy influence and help recruit other Asian soccer officials prepared to accept bribes, Lai said in court. FIFA said Friday that it had provisionally barred Lai from the sport pending a broader ethics review.
Sheikh Ahmad resigned his candidacy ahead of a FIFA panel’s decision on whether to remove him on ethical grounds.
The FIFA Review Committee, which rules on the integrity of people seeking senior FIFA positions, has been studying his candidacy since the allegations emerged, The Associated Press reported on Saturday.
The FIFA Ethics Committee is making a separate assessment of whether to provisionally suspend Sheikh Ahmad, a longtime leader of Kuwait’s soccer federation who was elected to FIFA’s ruling committee in 2015.
Resigning from his soccer positions does not necessarily put Sheikh Ahmad out of reach of FIFA ethics prosecutors and judges if any action is deemed to be warranted. In 2012, the former FIFA presidential candidate Mohamed bin Hammam of Qatar was barred for life by the ethics committee days after he resigned.
Bin Hammam was also clearly identified in Lai’s court hearing for having paid Lai a total of $100,000 in bribes to support Bin Hammam’s failed challenge to Sepp Blatter, who was then FIFA’s president, in 2011. Bin Hammam was removed from that election contest amid accusations that he had bribed Caribbean soccer officials.
Sheikh Ahmad has also contacted the I.O.C. Ethics Commission about the allegations against him, the I.O.C. said Saturday.
As president since 2012 of the global group of national Olympic bodies, known as ANOC, Sheikh Ahmad’s support has often been cited as key to winning Olympic elections and awards to host the Games. He was widely credited for helping Thomas Bach win the I.O.C. presidency in 2013.
Although Sheikh Ahmad was not named in Justice Department and court documents last week, he has become one of the most significant casualties of the sprawling United States investigation of bribery and corruption in international soccer that began with a wave of arrests in Zurich two years ago.
Sheikh Ahmad could be identified in a transcript of Lai’s court hearing which said, “Co-conspirator #2 was also the president of Olympic Council of Asia.” Sheikh Ahmad has been the…