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Friday, July 8, 2011

Qatar’s Bin Hammam hits out at FIFA and suggests he will fight charges

Asian Football Confederation (AFC) president Mohamed Bin Hammam decides to fight back against bribery charges placed against him by world soccer body FIFA. (File Photo)

Asian Football Confederation (AFC) president Mohamed Bin Hammam decides to fight back against bribery charges placed against him by world soccer body FIFA. (File Photo)
Asian Football Confederation (AFC) president Mohamed Bin Hammam, breaking a two-week silence, has indicated that he intends to fight a likely conviction on charges of bribery by the ethics committee of world soccer body FIFA.

Writing on his blog, Mr. Bin Hammam, a Qatari national who was closely involved in Qatar’s controversial success in winning the right to host the 2022 World Cup, hit out at the leaking of information from the ethics committee’s investigation of the charges against him.

Mr. Bin Hammam expressed his “disappointment” with the committee’s handling of his case. He called for a fair hearing during a meeting of the committee on July 22 and 23 when it is expected to pronounce judgement and ban him for life from involvement in the beautiful game.
“There have been continuous leaks of confidential information by persons who, along with their motivations, remain unknown,” Mr. Bin Hammam wrote, adding that it was “despite my observation that public comments were made by certain members directly involved in the process regarding a case that was still under investigation…”

Mr. Bin Hammam accused the committee of bias, but said that he “was still looking for and hoping to receive a fair hearing – one which will not be influenced by any political agenda or motivation.”

Mr. Bin Hammam said he hoped “that the decision will be made solely by the members of this committee and based solely on the facts presented and not based on assumptions or the wishes of people outside the committee,” an apparent reference to his erstwhile friend and now avowed foe, FIFA president Sepp Blatter.

A report on the committee’s investigation sent to Mr. Bin Hammam and three other soccer executives who were suspended alongside the AFC boss suggests that the committee will convict him as well as the others. Mr. Bin Hammam’s comments referred in part to the leaking of the report.

“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 17-page report says. It describes former FIFA vice president and head of soccer in North and Central America and the Caribbean Jack Warner, who resigned to avoid condemnation, as “an accessory to corruption.”

Mr. Bin Hammam has consistently denied wrongdoing. His blog post squashed reports that he would follow Mr. Warner’s example and resign before the committee meeting. FIFA ended the investigation of Mr. Warner immediately after he stepped down.

Mr. Bin Hammam is accused of having bribed officials at a Caribbean Football Union (CFU) meeting in Trinidad in May organized by Mr. Warner to ensure that they would support his presidential ambitions. Mr. Bin Hammam allegedly paid $40,000 in cash to 25 CFU members. Mr. Bin Hammam has said the payments were to cover the travel expense of CFU officials attending the meeting.

Mr. Bin Hammam withdrew his candidacy for the FIFA presidency hours before he was suspended, paving the way for Mr. Blatter to be re-elected unchallenged for a fourth term.

Mr. Bin Hammam is expected to appeal his likely condemnation by the ethics committee in the Court of Arbitration for Sport, a Lausanne, Switzerland-based international arbitration body, according to World Football Insider.

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