Qatar World Cup bid faces fresh corruption claims

Sunday 01 June 2014 22.48
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FIFA vice-president Jim Boyce said a re-run of the vote should take place if allegations are proven
FIFA vice-president Jim Boyce said a re-run of the vote should take place if allegations are proven
Mohamed Bin Hammam is accused of using slush funds to pay out cash to top football officials
Mohamed Bin Hammam is accused of using slush funds to pay out cash to top football officials

Qatari organisers of the 2022 World Cup have "vehemently" denied accusations their successful bid was corrupt.

They said lawyers were looking into claims made by a British Sunday newspaper.

The Qataris issued the denial after Jim Boyce, a vice-president of soccer's world governing body FIFA, said he would be in favour of re-running the vote for the 2022 host nation, if the allegations in the Sunday Times could be proved.

The Times claimed it had obtained millions of documents which they say show former FIFA executive committee member Mohamed Bin Hammam of Qatar made payments totalling around $5 million to football officials in return for votes for Qatar.

Qatar's Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy - the nation's World Cup organising committee - said it had won the right to stage the finals with "the best bid", and that it was "time for the Middle East to host its first FIFA World Cup".

"The Qatar 2022 Bid Committee always upheld the highest standard of ethics and integrity in its successful bid to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup," it said.

"In regard to the latest allegations from The Sunday Times, we say again that Mohamed Bin Hammam played no official or unofficial role in Qatar's 2022 Bid Committee.

"As was the case with every other member of FIFA's Executive Committee, our bid team had to convince Mr Bin Hammam of the merits of our bid.

"We are cooperating fully with (head of FIFA's investigation into corruption) Mr (Michael) Garcia's on-going investigation and remain totally confident that any objective enquiry will conclude we won the bid to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup fairly.

FIFA would not comment on the report, instead instructing journalists to "kindly contact the office of the Chairman of the investigatory chamber of the independent Ethics Committee Michael Garcia directly".

The Washington-based law firm representing Mr Garcia was not answering its telephone, and had not replied to a request for a comment.

New York lawyer Mr Garcia was due to meet the Qataris in Oman tomorrow in a meeting scheduled before the article was published, as he continues his questioning of those involved with FIFA and other bodies.

The Sunday Times printed what it said were details and excerpts of emails, letters and bank transfers in its vast report which it says prove Mr Bin Hammam, president of the Asian Football Confederation for nine years and a FIFA executive committee member for 15 years, had made payments from secret slush funds.

FIFA vice-president Mr Boyce, who was not on the executive committee at the time of the vote in December 2010, said Mr Garcia, should widen his investigation following the newspaper report.

"As a current member of the FIFA executive committee, we feel that any evidence whatsoever that people involved were bribed to do a certain vote, all that evidence should go to Michael Garcia... and let's await the report that comes back from Garcia.

"If Garcia's... recommendations are that wrongdoing happened for that vote for the 2022 World Cup, I certainly... would have absolutely no problem whatsoever if the recommendation was for a re-vote," the Northern Irishman told BBC radio.

That view was echoed by Per Ravn Omdal who served on the FIFA executive committee with Bin Hammam.

The former president of the Norway FA said: "If it can be proved that this corruption took place... I think it would be wise to put it to another vote. If there is more corruption, FIFA should re-examine the decision."

According to the newspaper, Mr Bin Hammam bribed officials in return for their support for the bid.

The 65-year-old was banned from football for life in July 2011 after being found guilty of attempted bribery surrounding his bid to beat incumbent FIFA president Sepp Blatter in that year's FIFA presidential election.

Although that ban was later annulled and he quit football, FIFA subsequently banned him for life for a second time in 2012 for "conflicts of interest" while AFC president.

Qatar's bid has been dogged by controversy since before winning the right to stage the finals in December 2010, after FIFA officials said temperatures of up to 50 degrees Celsius in the tiny Arab emirate were not conducive to staging the event.

Qatar beat off bids from Australia, Japan, the United States and South Korea. The Sunday Times alleges Mr Bin Hammam, who was not a member of the Qatar bidding committee, lobbied on behalf of his countrymen paying out millions in cash, gifts and junkets, especially to African officials.

The newspaper said Mr Bin Hammam had intended to create a groundswell of support for Qatar, a tiny country with no football heritage and very little infrastructure.