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Thursday, June 23, 2011

FIFA says it has compelling evidence of alleged bribery by Bin Hammam and Warner

FIFA says Asian Football Confederation chief Mohamed Bin Hammam (R) and FIFA vice president Jack Warner (L) were last month suspended on the basis of “convincing and overwhelming” evidence of bribery. (File photo)
World soccer body FIFA says Asian Football Confederation (AFC) chief Mohamed Bin Hammam and FIFA vice president Jack Warner were last month suspended on the basis of “convincing and overwhelming” evidence of bribery of Caribbean soccer officials.

The evidence is outlined in a 17-page report by FIFA’s ethics committee outlines that speaks of “compelling” evidence that the two men colluded in handing over envelopes of cash to 25 Caribbean Football Union (CFU) members at a meeting in Trinidad on May 10 and 11.

The cash was supposedly intended to ensure that the CFU members voted for Mr. Bin Hammamn in FIFA presidential elections at the beginning of this month. Mr. Bin Hammam, a Qatari national with close ties to the Gulf state’s ruling family, was challenging long standing FIFA president Sepp Blatter.

Mr. Blatter won the election unchallenged after Mr. Bin Hammam withdrew his candidacy hours before the ethic committee suspended him, Mr. Warner and two CFU executives on May 29.

Mr. Warner arranged the meeting at which the cash allegedly was handed out. The head of North American and Caribbean soccer, Mr. Warner this week resigned his soccer posts.

The ethics committee has launched an investigation into the alleged bribery and is scheduled to announce its results next month. The scandal is the worst in FIFA’s 107-year history. It has prompted calls for radical reform of the world soccer body.

The FIFA dossier, which was sent to Mr. Warner last week, is believed to have prompted him to resign after having served in the world soccer body for 30 years. The dossier includes witness statements from a number of CFU members at the meeting, who gave “credible and correspondent” testimony that they were given envelopes containing $40,000.

The committee said in the May 29 heading at which Messrs. Bin Hammam and Warner were suspended that they had “failed to provide the FIFA ethics committee with a plausible explanation.”

The FIFA report said that “it appears rather compelling to consider that the actions of Mr. Bin Hammam constitute prima facie an act of bribery, or at least an attempt to commit bribery.” The report asserts that Mr. Warner “had knowledge of the respective payments and condoned them.”

Former AFC general secretary Peter Velappan called in an interview with Associated Press on Tuesday for Mr. Bin Hammam to follow Mr. Warner’s example and step down as the head of the Asian soccer body. Mr. Bin Hammam has temporarily stepped aside pending the outcome of a FIFA investigation.

“He should just resign because of the allegations. It would be good for football. This has been going on for so many years. He should follow Warner, strike a deal with FIFA and say goodbye,” Mr. Velappan said.

Stepping down would allow Mr. Bin Hammam to avoid further embarrassment. Mr. Warner’s resignation brought FIFA’s investigation into his alleged collusion to an end.

For Mr. Bin Hammam however, the problem is that his resignation would as would an affirmative conclusion of the FIFA investigation reflect on him but also on the controversial awarding to Qatar of the right to host the 2022 World Cup.

Qatar has been accused of winning the hosting rights by bribing two FIFA executive committee members. Mr. Bin Hammam was closely associated with Qatar’s bid. The AFC chief has denied all charges levelled against him.

Mr. Blatter has so far resisted calls for an investigation into Qatar’s bid despite calls for an enquiry. Mr. Blatter’s refusal has raised questions about his sincerity in promising to root out corruption in the world soccer body.

The head of Germany’s football federation, Theo Zwanziger, repeated his call on Wednesday for FIFA to re-examine the awarding of the tournament to Qatar.

“I think there is a significant degree of suspicion that one cannot just dismiss. And that is why I reckon that the awarding of this World Cup must be re-examined with regard to these concerns,” Mr. Zwanziger told German broadcaster ZDF
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