Olympics - Sheikh Ahmad re-elected Asia chief amid Swiss probe

(Reuters) - Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah has been re-elected president of the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) for an eighth term despite being embroiled in a forgery case brought by Swiss investigators.

FILE PHOTO: Asian Winter Games - Opening ceremony - Sapporo Dome - Sapporo, Japan - 19/02/17 - Olympic Council of Asia President Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah takes part in the opening ceremony. REUTERS/Issei Kato

The long-serving Kuwaiti, a powerful ally of International Olympic Committee (IOC) head Thomas Bach, was re-elected unanimously at the OCA general assembly in Bangkok, the OCA has said.

An IOC member since 1992, Sheikh Ahmad stepped down from his roles in the global Olympic body in November, less than two weeks after the Public Prosecutor of Geneva submitted a forgery accusation to a criminal court against the Kuwaiti and four others.

Sheikh Ahmad had been head of Olympic Solidarity -- the multi-million dollar IOC purse that funds sports projects globally -- and the head of the Association of National Olympic Committees (ANOC).

Sheikh Ahmad has proclaimed his innocence and said in November that the Swiss court case had nothing to do with “sport or corruption”.

The OCA said Japanese Olympic Committee president Tsunekazu Takeda had been retained as an OCA Vice President despite being at the centre of a corruption probe brought by French financial prosecutors.

French investigators are probing a multi-million dollar payment made by Japan’s 2020 Olympic bidding committee to a Singaporean consultancy and placed Takeda under formal investigation on Dec. 10, a French judicial source told Reuters in January.

Takeda, a vice president on Tokyo 2020’s executive board, has also proclaimed his innocence and denied anything improper with the bid.

The OCA said its Ethics Commission had “reviewed” the cases of Sheikh Ahmad and Tsunekazu Takeda and that, based on the information available, no action would be taken.

“The Ethics Commission reiterated everyone’s right to the presumption of innocence,” the OCA statement said.

The OCA also confirmed that they would invite a limited number of athletes from countries in Oceania to compete at the 2022 Asian Games in Hangzhou, China.

The continental body had said in 2017 that they would allow around 300 athletes and 150 support staff from the Pacific Ocean countries to compete in sports whose qualification paths for the 2024 Paris Olympics went through Asia.

The OCA said that Oceania athletes from volleyball, beach volleyball, basketball, football and fencing would be invited to Hangzhou, a move welcomed by Australian Olympic Committee president John Coates, who has long lobbied for the move.

“Australia is very grateful for this opportunity which was confirmed this weekend and there will be enormous interest from our Oceania neighbours,” Coates said in a statement.

“This is something I have been pursuing for more than 20 years.”

Reporting by Greg Stutchbury; Editing by Amlan Chakraborty