Powerful Kuwaiti royal convicted in Swiss forgery case

Geneva (AFP) –


World sport powerbroker Sheikh Ahmad al-Fahad al-Sabah was on Friday found guilty by a Swiss court in a complex forgery case linked to an alleged plot against his political rivals in Kuwait.

After just over a week of hearings, the Geneva Criminal Court ruled convicted Kuwait's Sheikh Ahmad, handing him a 30-month prison sentence, half of it suspended.

Four other defendants -- three Geneva-based lawyers and a Kuwaiti aide -- were also found guilty and handed sentences of up to 36 months behind bars.

Sheikh Ahmad had been charged over an intricate forgery scheme linked to efforts to prove that Kuwait's former prime minister and speaker of parliament were guilty of coup-plotting and corruption.

The sheikh, who is currently the president of the Olympic Council of Asia and the Asian Handball Federation, had flatly denied any wrongdoing.

On Friday, he sat in the court, a blue facemask under his bearded chin, shaking his head as the head judge read out his sentence.

He told journalists afterwards that he would appeal.

When Swiss prosecutors brought charges against him in late 2018, the sheikh was forced to step aside from his duties as a longtime member of the International Olympic Committee.

- Bogus arbitration -

Sheikh Ahmad, a senior member of Kuwait's ruling family, was accused of orchestrating a fake arbitration case to legitimise suspicious video recordings he presented as evidence of corrupt practices by ex-premier Sheikh Nasser Mohammad al-Ahmad al-Sabah and former parliament chief Jassem al-Khorafi.

In 2013 he provided these recordings to Kuwaiti authorities that he said showed the pair plotting a coup, and conducting corrupt transactions to pocket tens of billions of dollars of public funds.

The authenticity of the video recordings was contested.

According to Friday's ruling, Sheikh Ahmad's lawyers then engineered a complex set-up, in which he ceded the broadcast rights of the videos to Delaware firm Trekell.

Trekell -- a shell company controlled by the defendants, according to the court -- then filed a lawsuit claiming the videos were fake.

This enabled a fictious arbitration to be set up, the court ruled.

In the arbitration case, one of the Geneva-based lawyers took on the role of arbitrator and signed a ruling stating that the videos were authentic, and received a 10,000-Swiss-franc payment in return.

Sheikh Ahmad then attempted to use the Swiss court ruling as evidence that the voices heard in the recordings were those of the two former officials.

During the hearing, Sheikh Ahmad had told the court that he had trusted the lawyers and had had no knowledge of the set-up.

But the judges said Friday this was not credible, pointing out that all other actors in the case were his subordinates and that he was the sole beneficiary of the scheme.