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FIFA official Sheikh Ahmad resigning amid bribery claims

Baku, May 1, AZERTAC

Under pressure from allegations in an American federal court that he bribed FIFA voters, Asian Olympic leader Sheikh Ahmad Al Fahad Al Sabah of Kuwait resigned from his soccer roles on Sunday, according to AP.

Sheikh Ahmad's move ended his candidacy to retain a seat on FIFA's ruling council before eight days of voting by Asian soccer officials in Bahrain.

"I do not want these allegations to create divisions or distract attention from the upcoming AFC (Asian Football Confederation) and FIFA Congresses," said the Kuwaiti royal, who denies any wrongdoing.

"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," he said.

Still, the charismatic Sheikh Ahmad is keeping his portfolio of influential Olympic positions.

He has been president of the global group of national Olympic bodies, known as ANOC, since 2012; president of the Olympic Council of Asia since 1991; and chairman of the IOC's Olympic Solidarity panel which distributes hundreds of millions of dollars to ANOC members.

The sheikh left FIFA, which he joined in 2015, as pressure was building to remove him from the May 8 election. Two FIFA panels were reviewing his status this weekend.

FIFA President Gianni Infantino said he had "taken note" of the sheikh's move, adding in a brief statement that "I want to thank him for taking this decision which certainly was not easy to take but is in the best interest for FIFA."

Sheikh Ahmad contacted the ethics panels of FIFA and the IOC after the allegations were made in Brooklyn federal courthouse on Thursday.

FIFA audit committee member Richard Lai, an American citizen from Guam, pleaded guilty to wire fraud conspiracy charges related to taking around $1 million in bribes, including at least $850,000 from Kuwaiti officials. The cash was to buy influence and help recruit other Asian soccer officials prepared to take bribes, Lai said in court.

After the allegations emerged, the FIFA Review Committee, which rules on the integrity of people seeking senior positions, was studying the sheikh's candidacy.

The FIFA ethics committee is making a separate assessment which could provisionally suspend the sheikh, a past president of Kuwait's soccer federation who also briefly coached the national team.

Resigning from his soccer positions does not necessarily put Sheikh Ahmad out of reach of FIFA ethics prosecutors and judges if any action was taken.

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