World soccer body FIFA has launched an investigation into alleged corruption of four of its officials, including Asian Football Confederation (AFC) chief Mohammed Bin Hammam, who is challenging FIFA president Sepp Blatter in presidential elections next week.
The investigation, FIFA said in a statement, was launched after Chuck Blazer, the American member of the soccer body’s executive committee, filed a complaint alleging that Mr. Bin Hammam, a Qatari national with close ties to the Qatari ruling family, as well as FIFA vice president Jack A. Warner and Caribbean Football Union (CFU) members Debbie Minguell and Jason Sylvester had violated the organization’s code of ethics.
The investigation comes as Mr. Bin Hammam’s election campaign was already running into problems because of suspicions that he may have been associated or had knowledge of alleged bribery by Qatar in its successful bid last December to win the hosting of the 2022 World Cup. They are likely to kill any chance Mr. Bin Hammam may have had of defeating Mr. Blatter in the election.
The Sunday Times asserted earlier this month in a letter to a British parliamentary committee that Qatar had bought the votes of two FIFA executive committee member - FIFA vice-president Issa Hayatou of Cameroon and Jacques Anouma of the Ivory Coast - by paying them $1.5 million each.
FIFA has launched a separate investigation into the allegations of The Sunday Times as well as charges made by former English Football Association chairman Lord Triesman that could lead to the vote awarding the World Cup to Qatar being cancelled.
Mr. Blazer charged that the violations were committed during a meeting organized by Messrs. Bin Hammam and Warner to discuss the FIFA presidential election.
"On 24 May, 2011, FiIFA executive committee member and CONCAFAF (Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football general secretary Chuck Blazer reported to FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke possible violations of the Fifa code of ethics allegedly committed by officials,” the statement said.
"In particular, the report referred to a special meeting of the Caribbean Football Union (CFU), apparently organised jointly by FIFA vice-president Jack A. Warner and FIFA executive committee member Mohamed Bin Hammam, which took place on 10-11 May 2011. This meeting was linked to the upcoming Fifa presidential election,” the statement went on to say.
FIFA said that "in view of the facts alleged in this report, which include bribery allegations,
FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke, in compliance with art. 16 of the FIFA code of ethics, yesterday requested the FIFA ethics committee open ethics proceedings."
FIFA has invited Messrs. Bin Hammam, Warner and Sylvester and Ms. Minguell to attend a hearing in Zurich on Sunday.
FIFA officials said that the chairman of the ethics committee, Claudio Sulser, would not be involved in the investigation because like Mr. Blatter he is a Swiss national and his involvement could be construed as a conflict of interests. Instead, the meeting will be chaired by the committee's deputy chairman Petrus Damaseb of Namibia.
Lord Triesman alleged during the British parliamentary enquiry that he had witnessed "improper and unethical behavior by four ExCo (executive committee) members, including Mr Warner during his time as England's failed 2018 World Cup bid chairman.
Lord Triesman alleged that Mr. Warner had asked for cash to build an education center. He charged further that Thailand's FIFA executive committee member Worawi Makudi wanted to be given the television rights to a friendly between England and the Thai national team, that Paraguay's FIFA committee member Nicolas Leoz had asked for a knighthood; and that Brazil's Ricardo Terra Teixeira had asked him to "come and tell me what you have got for me".