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Sun 30 Apr 2017 09:02 AM

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Kuwait's top Olympic power broker rejects bribery claim

"Sheikh Ahmad is very surprised by such allegations and strongly denies any wrongdoing"

Kuwait's top Olympic power broker rejects bribery claim
"Sheikh Ahmad is very surprised by such allegations and strongly denies any wrongdoing. (Ali al-Saadi/AFP/Getty Images)

Olympic power broker Sheikh Ahmad al Fahad al Sabah denied links to a $1 million bribery case as the latest FIFA corruption scandal threatened one of the most influential figures in world sport.

The Kuwaiti, president of the Olympic Council of Asia among a string of other roles, said in a statement that he "strongly denies any wrongdoing" after he was named as a co-conspirator of disgraced Guam football chief Richard Lai.

Lai, 55, pleaded guilty in New York this week to receiving nearly $1 million in bribes from football officials wanting his help to influence world body FIFA and gain control of the Asian Football Confederation.

"Sheikh Ahmad Al Fahad Al Sabah is aware of the media speculations concerning alleged payments made to Richard Lai who is being investigated by US authorities for tax and other alleged violations," the OCA statement issued on behalf of the Kuwaiti said.

"Sheikh Ahmad is very surprised by such allegations and strongly denies any wrongdoing.

"He will vigorously defend his integrity and reputation and that of any organisation that he represents in any relevant legal review."

As well as heading the OCA, which oversees the Asian Games among other events, Sheikh Ahmad sits on the FIFA Council and is president of the 206-member Association of National Olympic Committees.

He is also a member of the AFC's executive committee as was the now-suspended Lai, whose rap sheet includes taking a $100,000 bribe to vote for an AFC official in FIFA's 2011 presidential election.

According to reports, Sheikh Ahmad, a former Kuwaiti oil minister and a current International Olympic Committee member, lobbied on behalf of Thomas Bach when he was elected president of the IOC in 2013.

He is also considered a close ally of AFC president Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa, who was elected in 2013 after his predecessor, Mohamed bin Hammam, was banned from football for alleged corruption.

Qatar's Bin Hammam stood against Sepp Blatter for the FIFA presidency in 2011 until he was accused of trying to bribe members of the Caribbean Football Union.

Lai, Pacific island Guam's football chief since 2001, has been suspended by both FIFA and the AFC after he admitted accepting bribes between 2009 and 2014.

A large-scale US investigation has seen federal prosecutors indict about 40 football and sports marketing executives with allegedly receiving tens of millions of bribes and kickbacks.

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