Scandal threatens FINA on eve of world champs

Budapest (AFP) –


Swimming's governing body FINA has been drawn into a financial scandal days before both their presidential elections and the start of the swimming world championships in Budapest.

Kuwait's Husain Al Musallam, who is standing unopposed as FINA's first vice-president, has been caught up in a controversy for appearing to demand a 10 percent cut of potential sponsorship deals.

In his role as general director of the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA), the 57-year-old is heard asking for 'commissions' on deals worth "40 to 50 million" dollars in a tape recording obtained by The Times and Germany's Speigel Online.

The exchange is said to be between a prospective Chinese marketing agent and Musallam, who suggested that 10 per cent of any sponsorship deals arranged for the OCA should be separately channelled to him.

Ahead of their elections in Budapest on Saturday and Sunday's start of swimming action at the world championships in the Hungarian capital, FINA said none of their regulations had been breached.

"These allegations are a matter for OCA to comment on although FINA will monitor developments carefully," said FINA in a statement.

"However, it was determined there was no case to answer based on the information that is available to FINA at this time.

"Moreover, there was no breach of any FINA regulations."

The OCA denied any wrong-doing on Musallam's part and questioned the timing of the articles.

"The OCA firmly denies that OCA officials requested commissions for OCA sponsorship deals and confirms that no commission or money was paid to OCA officials, directly or indirectly, for OCA sponsorship deals," read the statement.

"All money for sponsorship deals went directly to the OCA.

"The OCA is fully aware of the tape in question and its content and believes that this tape is being used in a politically motivated campaign ahead of the upcoming FINA elections scheduled for 22 July 2017."

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) told The Times and Der Spiegel that it had passed the allegations to its chief ethics investigator.

It is not the first time this year that Musallam has courted controversy.

In April, The Times revealed, he was effectively identified in a US Department of Justice indictment as a co-conspirator who allegedly paid bribes to a football official.

Musallam is the right-hand man of Olympic powerbroker and OCA president Sheikh Ahmad Al Fahad Al Sabah, who in April resigned from his FIFA after being identified as a co-conspirator, along with Musallam, in the US indictment.

The recording obtained by The Times has emerged from the FBI investigation into Musallam and Sheikh Ahmad.