Husain Al Musallam, the FINA first vice-president and director of the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) steeped in controversy in worlds FIFA, Olympic and FINA this year, appears to have used Olympic resources to arrange payments to the Guam football official awaiting sentencing in a bribery case brought by the U.S. Justice Department.
A day after The Times, Spiegel and SwimVortex revealed the latest controversy surrounding Al Musallam, documents understood to be a part of the Richard Lai case appear to show the Guam official, a U.S. citizen, soliciting $250,000 from Al-Musallam so that he can conclude “our investigation”. Lai’s Hong Kong bank details are included in the email.
Another mail exchange appears to show Al Musallam sending those same bank details to Najaf Sraj, the Finance Director of the OCA. What happens next is believed to be a part of ongoing, cross-border investigations.
The mail exchanges took place in the same year, 2012, as that in which Al Musallam met a leading Chinese marketing agent to discuss a potential multi-million-dollar contract related to the marketing rights of the Asian Games and other leading sports events in the region. In the course of the exchange in Haiyang, China, the FINA executive urges the Chinese woman to set up a private company that would receive agents commission fees not in Bejing but in Hong Kong.
In April, when the U.S. Justice Department case came to light and Al Musallam was a cited as co-conspirator No 3 alongside his boss at the OCA and the Asian Swimming Federation, Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah Sheikh, cited as co-conspirator No2, the indictment cited the use of bank accounts “in the control” of the two Kuwaiti officials when it came to transfer to lai of more than $850,000 in payments.
The U.S Justice Department indictment stated that a $250,000 payment went from the Kuwaitis to the HSBC’s Hong Kong account that Lai provided in two tranches of $ 125,000 each, on January 17 and February 14, 2012.
The court papers did not specify whether the funds came from private accounts or accounts belonging to the OCA. Both Kuwaiti’s deny wrongdoing and among statements made in the case is that the payments made to Lai were part of legitimate contracts. Lai was unwilling or unable – or both – to persuade the legal authorities in the U.S. of that, however, and waits a date for sentencing.
This evening, Spiegel Online’s Jens Weinreich notes in his report that the issues surrounding Al Musallam are all the spicier because the officials involved play a big role at the “Olympic Solidarity” Commission distributing $509 million in the current Olympic cycle to more than 200 National Olympic Committees and projects.
Writes Weinreich: “At the center of these events is once again the powerful Kuwait faction, which is largely isolated in its own country: Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah, who holds dozens of so-called honorary offices in the world sport, and his Adlatus Husain Al-Musallam, First Vice President and thus heir to the throne in FINA, as well as General Director of the OCA, which is again led by President Sheikh Ahmad.”
In his confession, Lai stated that he used the money received from the Kuwaitis for personal matters and not for the promotion of football in Guam. He also, in the course of questioning by investigators, said that Al Musallam had brought a bag full of money with him to one meeting. Lai said he had not wished to accept the suitcase with the money in it for fear of customs control.
Pâquerette Girard Zappelli, the Ethics Officer of the IOC, has opened an investigation into the allegations against Al Musallam.
Despite that and the fact that the Kuwait Swimming Federation has written to FINA to say it does not recognise Al Musallam as its international representative, the “fist vice-president” will stand for re-appointment to an heir-apparent role chosen only by his fellow vice-presidents and not open to the wider vote of the FINA General Congress – the “highest authority of FINA” in the international federation’s constitution – taking place in Budapest this week.
FINA’s ruling Bureau rejected the Kuwaiti federation’s complaints and continues to back Al Musallam’s election candidacy this week even though Kuwait is a nation currently suspended by the IOC and FINA. It’s athletes must compete under the FINA flag in Hungary this month; for its officials, business as usual.
Meanwhile, sources at FINA in Budapest say that Al-Musallam has put the tape recording in which he negotiates with a Chinese agent down to a disgruntled Iranian swimming official he accuses of having stolen the tape that forms part of a library of recordings, the OCA having made such things standard practice, according to the Kuwaiti.
Al Musallam, having failed to answer a series of questions from The Times and Spiegel Online, names the official in a statement given to other media as Mohsen Rezvani, the President of I.R. Iran Swimming Federation.