9 November 2020

Husain Al-Musallam nominated for FINA President

Husain Al-Musallam has been nominated as the Asian Amateur Swimming Federation’s (AASF) candidate to replace Julio Maglione as President of the international swimming federation (FINA), and has been backed by the African swimming confederation (CANA), reports Swimming World. Al-Musallam has been Director General of the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) since 1982, headed by President Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah, a member of Kuwait’s ruling family. In 2017, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) launched an investigation into Al-Musallam, after allegations that he had attempted to negotiate a 10% cut of OCA sponsorship deals – allegations which he later denied. The Ethics Commission of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has also been investigating Sheikh Ahmad since 2018.

Richard K. Lai indictment

Al-Musallam is also understood to be ‘Co-conspirator #3’ described in a 2017 US Department of Justice (DoJ) indictment (PDF below) as ‘a high raking official of the OCA and an official of the KFA [Kuwait Football Association]. In November 2017, based on the allegations within the indictment below, FIFA chose to sanction Richard K. Lai, a former Asian Football Confederation (AFC) official and a member of the FIFA Audit and Compliance Committee, with a life ban.

The DoJ indictment alleges that ‘Co-conspirator #3’ arranged a meeting between Lai and OCA President Sheikh Ahmad to discuss Mohammed bin Hammam’s leadership of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC), as well as arranging the transfer of funds to Lai’s personal account, which was dressed as covering the hire of the manager for the Guam national team. The document alleges that Sheikh Ahmad and Al-Mussalam arranged to bribe Lai in order to gain control over the AFC and influence FIFA. 

‘Ultimately, their goal was to gain control of the AFC by ensuring that their allies obtained positions of leadership within the AFC, rather than Co- Conspirator #1 [Bin Hammam] or his allies, and to influence FIFA, including through the election of AFC representatives to the FIFA Executive Committee’, reads the DoJ indictment. ‘These efforts were ultimately successful, as Candidate #1 [Sheikh Salman Bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa] eventually was elected president of the AFC and a member of the FIFA Executive Committee, Co-Conspirator #2 [Sheikh Ahmad] was ultimately elected to the FIFA Executive Committee, and Co- Conspirator #1 [Bin Hammam] was banned for life from holding positions in organized soccer’.

In 2016, the IOC decided against investigating a complaint from a FIFA Presidential candidate that Sheikh Ahmad had breached IOC ethics rules by lobbying national associations to vote for Sheikh Salman in that year’s FIFA Presidential election. Sheikh Salman is FIFA’s Senior Vice President today.

Olympic Solidarity Commission

Al Musallam is also a member of the IOC’s Olympic Solidarity Commission, which provides financial assistance to national Olympic Committees (NOCs) for development projects. As such, he has been involved in OCA Olympasia development projects. In 2017, it was alleged that Olympasia Project funds were being misappropriated. There is no suggestion that he has been involved in this, but the OCA has never responded to these allegations, despite evidence of the alleged fraud being sent to Sheikh Ahmad – who chaired the Commission until November 2018 – directly.

Sheikh Ahmad was forced to resign his roles in football after also being identified through the Richard K. Lai charge sheet. In 2018, he stepped aside (but didn’t resign) as an IOC Member and as President of the Association of National Olympic Committees (ANOC), after a Swiss probe prompted the Ethics Commission of the IOC to launch an investigation. Despite this, he was re-elected as President of the OCA for an eighth term in March last year.

‘Fake video’ allegations

In 2015, Sheikh Ahmad was sanctioned with a suspended six month jail sentence for disobeying a prosecutor’s gag on discussing videos that Swiss authorities are now re-examining. It is understood that they involve allegations of corruption involving former Kuwaiti Prime Minister, Sheikh Nasser Al Mohammed Al Sabah and his parliamentary speaker, Jassem al-Karafi. An investigation into the recordings by Kuwaiti security agencies reportedly found the videos to be unauthentic. However, at the time, a Geneva arbitration court found otherwise.

In 2018, prosecutors began examining allegations that Sheikh Ahmad gave the rights to the videos to Trekell, a company purportedly located in Delaware which investigators found to be a shell, reported Swiss newspaper Le Temps. It is understood that the purpose of this was to create the fictional Geneva arbitration dispute between Sheikh Ahmad and Trekell referred to above, in an attempt to legitimise the allegedly fake videos as genuine. Other allegations involving Sheikh Ahmad are detailed in this article.

Julio Maglione

FINA’s current President Maglione, 85, is a former President of the Uruguayan Football Association (UAF), and has been President of the Uruguayan Olympic Committee (COU) since 1987. He was appointed as FINA President in 2009, and is due to step down when elections are held in Qatar on 5 June 2021.

He was re-elected as FINA President in 2017 and, shortly after, FINA’s rules were changed to allow its President to serve three four year terms. It was also alleged that a pledge to offer up to US$4,000 in grants to the 209 FINA national federations for the first edition of World Aquatics Day risked being seen as ‘cash for votes’ ahead of the election. 

Following his re-election, Maglione was appointed as ANOC Senior Vice President at its September 2017 General Assembly. However, following Sheikh Ahmad’s decision to step aside as ANOC President due to the IOC investigation, Robin Mitchell of Fiji was appointed as Senior Vice President and Acting President at the November 2018 ANOC General Assembly in Tokyo. It is understood that Maglione stepped down from the ANOC Executive at the same ANOC General Assembly. At its Congress last year, FINA changed the composition of its Executive from eight to nine persons to accommodate ‘the immediate past President [Maglione]’.

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