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Monday, July 25, 2011

FIFA looks at investigating Egyptian executive committee member

Egypt’s Hany Abou Rida. (File Photo)
Egypt’s Hany Abou Rida. (File Photo)
A possible widening of the FIFA investigation that led this weekend to the banning for life from all soccer activity of the world soccer body’s vice president, Mohammed Bin Hammam, is likely to focus on three more executive committee members, including Egypt's Hany Abou Rida.

Mr. Bin Hammam, a Qatari national who headed the Asian Football Confederation (AFC), was banned for bribing officials of the Caribbean Football Union (CFU) at a meeting in May in Trinidad in a bid to secure their votes for his failed campaign to succeed Sepp Blatter as FIFA president.
Mr. Blatter was elected unchallenged for a fourth terms last month after Mr. Bin Hammam, a 62-year old Qatari national, withdrew his candidacy in late May hours before he was suspended pending an investigation of the bribery charges. It was that investigation that persuaded FIFA’s ethics committee to ban Mr. Bin Hammam on Saturday at the end of two days of hearings in Zurich.

Mr. Bin Hammam has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing and has vowed to appeal the committee’s verdict.

Petrus Damaseb, the deputy chairman of the committee reportedly asked the organization’s legal department in the wake of Mr. Bin Hammam’s banning to open cases against all officials who travelled to Trinidad with the disgraced official. Those officials include Mr. Abou Rida as well as FIFA executive committee members Vernon Manilal Fernando of Sri Lanka and Worawi Makudi of Thailand.

The opening of the cases would prolong FIFA’s corruption scandal, the worst in the organization’s 107-year history that has already lead to the banning of three African executive committee members in addition to Mr. Bin Hammam and the resignation of Jack Warner, a FIFA vice president who headed soccer in North and Central America and the Caribbean.

The involvement of Mr. Abou Rida is likely to fuel demands by militant Egyptian soccer fans to remove executives appointed by the regime of ousted President Hosni Mubarak and focus attention of the state of affairs in African soccer.

It could also revive allegations of bribery by Qatar in its successful bid to host the 2022 World Cup. Those allegations were squashed earlier this month after a whistle blower whose statements had implicated the Gulf state said that she had fabricated the charges.

All of FIFA’s African executive committee will have been tarnished by charges of corruption or improper behavior if the organization investigates Mr. Abou Rida. Nigeria's Amos Adamu was suspended last November for breaching the world governing body's ethics code.

The sincerity of CAF and FIFA’s attempts to root out corruption has nonetheless recently come into question because of their handling of the banning of executive committee members Slim Aloulou of Tunisia, and Amadou Diakite of Mali on charges of having accepted bribes to vote for Morocco’s failed bid for the 2010 World Cup. Mr. Aloulou was banned for two years while Mr. Diakite was banned for three years. Both had their punishments reduced by a year each following an appeal in February.

CAF last month listed both men as members of some of its committees despite their bans still being in effect.

The whistle blower’s fabricated statement charged that Qatar had paid $1.5 million each to Confederation of African Football (CAF) president Issa Hayatou and Ivorian football boss Jacques to secure their votes for its World Cup bid.

An investigation of Mr. Makudi could fuel calls of an investigation into Qatar’s bid in the wake of the banning of Mr. Bin Hammam. Media reports earlier this year asserted that Qatar had agreed to build a soccer academy in Thailand in an effort to persuade Mr. Makudi to support its hosting of the World Cup. Both Qatar and Mr. Makudi have denied the reports. Qatar has further repeatedly insisted that its bid campaign did not violate FIFA rules.

Conservative British member of parliament Damian Collins called on Sunday for an investigation in the wake of Mr. Bin Hammam’s banning into his role in Qatar’s World Cup bid.

“This is a day of shame for football’s governing body. These are such serious charges from the FIFA ethics committee that there should now be a fuller inquiry into Bin Hammam’s other recent work within FIFA, and in particular his role on the FIFA executive committee during the bidding process for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups,” Mr. Collins said in a statement on his Website.

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