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Sunday, June 5, 2011

FIFA hires former FBI director Louis Freeh to investigate Qatar’s Bin Hammam


Louis Freeh is to investigate allegations that executive committee members Mohamed bin Hammam and Jack Warner offered bribes to Caribbean voters to support Mr. Bin Hammam’s presidential election campaign. (File photo)

Louis Freeh is to investigate allegations that executive committee members Mohamed bin Hammam and Jack Warner offered bribes to Caribbean voters to support Mr. Bin Hammam’s presidential election campaign. (File photo)
World soccer body FIFA has hired former FBI director Louis Freeh to investigate allegations that executive committee members Mohamed bin Hammam and Jack Warner offered $40,000 bribes to Caribbean voters to support Mr. Bin Hammam’s presidential election campaign.

Mr. Freeh’s Freeh Group International Europe will assist FIFA’s ethics committee in its investigation of Messrs. Bin Hammam and Warner. The committee last month suspended the two men alongside two officials of the Caribbean Football Union (CFU) on suspicion of bribery.

Mr. Bin Hammam withdrew his challenge to FIFA president Sepp Blatter hours before the suspension. Mr. Blatter, a Swiss national, was elected unopposed for a fourth term last Wednesday by the FIFA congress.

The investigation of Mr. Bin Hammam, a Qatari national with close ties to the Qatari ruling family, and Mr. Warner is part of a larger corruption scandal engulfing FIFA. It could produce evidence of allegations that Qatar bribed FIFA executive committee members to win its bid to host the 2022 World Cup. Mr. Bin Hammam was closely associated with Qatar’s World Cup bid.
Mr. Freeh founded his group after heading the Federal Bureau of Investigation from 1993 to 2001. Mr. Freeh previously served six years as a special agent. He was also a judge.

Mr. Blatter has also invited former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, an ambassador for the failed US bid to host the 2022 World Cup and legendary Dutch soccer player Johan Cruijff to assist the ethics committee in resolving FIFA’s crisis, the worst in its 107-year history.

Nine of FIFA’s 24 executive committee members are suspected of corruption or improper behavior. Two of them were banned last year.

Messrs. Bin Hammam and Warner have denied the bribery allegations. Mr. Bin Hammam asserts that Mr. Blatter and his supporters leveled the allegations to force him to withdraw from the presidential contest.

A long-time Warner ally, Horace Burrell of Jamaica, denied this week that his soccer association had been offered a bribe.

“Let me state categorically that the (Jamaica federation) was not offered, neither received any funds prior to, during nor after the CFU meeting held May 10-11 in Trinidad,” Mr. Burrell said in a statement.

FIFA’s corruption scandal, the worst in its 107 year-old history, escalated last month when US executive committee member Chuck Blazer produced a file of evidence including witness statements from four CFU member countries against Messrs. Bin Hammam and Warner.

Mr. Blazer said this week that “much more evidence” would emerge from Caribbean officials, who were advised in Zurich to hand over the money paid by Mr. Bin Hammam to FIFA and assist the inquiry, or face being placed under suspicion.

Soccer officials from Puerto Rico arrived in Switzerland on Sunday for the FIFA Congress bearing a check for $40,000.

Mr. Warner, in response to his suspension, warned that he would unleash as “football tsunami” by documenting widespread corruption within FIFA that would also implicate Mr. Blatter. Mr. Blatter was cleared last month of charges that he was aware of Mr. Bin Hammam’s payments to Caribbean officials but had failed to report them.

Mr. Warner has already published a note written by FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke asserting that Qatar “bought” its hosting rights for the 2022 World Cup.

Mr. Valcke said his mail referred to Qatar’s financial muscle and did not imply wrongdoing by the in its World Cup.

Qatar has denied the bribery allegations and said it would welcome an independent inquiry.

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