Allegations of Bribery Could Force Cancellation of Qatar’s Hosting of World Cup
Allegations that Qatar bribed two members of the executive committee of FIFA could force the world soccer body to annul last December’s awarding of the hosting of the 2022 World Cup to the Gulf state and call for a new vote.
English Football Association (FA) CEO Alex Horne said his organization was requesting evidence of alleged bribery in the Qatar vote as well as the awarding of the 2018 Cup to Russia presented to the British parliament’s Culture, Media and Sports Select Committee by The Sunday Times and former chairman David Triesman involving corrupt practices of six of the FIFA executive committee’s 24 members related to the awarding of 2022 bid to Qatar and the 2018 World Cup to Russia.
Home said it was “too early to speculate” about whether the FA would call for the World Cup votes to be annulled and repeated.
England lost to Russia its bid to host the 2018 tournament.
In a letter earlier this month to the chairman of the British parliamentary committee, John Whittingdale, Sunday Times Insight team members John Calvert and Claire Newell asserted on the basis of the paper’s reporting that Qatar had paid $1.5 million each to two FIFA executive committee members, Jacques Anouma of the Ivory Coast and Confederation of African Football president (CAF) Issa Hayatou, to secure their votes.
Committee member Damian Collins said the bribes were paid by a fixer employed by Qatar.
The Sunday Times said a third executive committee member, Amos Adamu, had been set to receive the same amount, but the deal fell through when the Nigerian was banned for three years because of the paper’s earlier revelations about his corrupt practices. Sunday Times reporters posing as US lobbyists caught Adamu on tape seeking to sell his vote for $600,000.
The Qatar Football Association has denied allegations of bribery that "they will remain unproven, because they are false." The association said in a statement that "FIFA’s Ethics Committee investigated certain allegations, and entirely exonerated the Qatar 2022 bid. We have nothing to hide and are prepared to support and cooperate with any further investigations and will be happy to counter any allegations from whistleblowers with real evidence."
The charges against Qatar were also denied in testimony to the parliamentary committee by Mike Lee, a London-based public relations consultant who worked on Qatar's bid and a former communication director of the English Premier League, UEFA and London's 2012 Olympic bid.
“I was working at the highest level of that bid and talking at length with the chairman and ceo and saw no evidence of any of these allegations. My experience is I would have had a sense if such things were going on and I had no sense of that," Mr. Lee said.
In their letter Mr. Calvert and Ms. Newell conceded that “the allegations were and remained unproven, but we believe they were credible because they were made people who held or had held official positions in Fifa (and later supported by a whistleblower from within the Qatar bid) and were so serious that you would have expected a responsible governing body to launch an investigation into them.”
The Sunday Times reporters suggested that were writing to Mr. Whittingdale because FIFA had failed to act on their evidence. Members of the British committee said they would submit to FIFA the evidence presented to them by The Sunday Times and various witnesses. “I feel very strongly that FIFA have to investigate this at a greater depth than they have before, because these allegations seem to be not just about 2018 but 2022 as well,” Mr. Collins said.
FIFA president Sepp Blatter who is being challenged in the organization’s presidential election at the end of this month, by Asian Football Confederation head Mohammed Bin Hammam, a Qatari national, that FIFA would respond once it was in possession of any further evidence of bribery claims. Mr. Bin Hammam has said it was time for Mr. Blatter to step down after 12 years in office because FIFA’s image was tarnished during his presidency by repeated corruption scandals.
“There is a new round of information, give us time to digest that and start the investigation by asking for evidence on what has been said. I repeat, we must have the evidence and we will react immediately against all those in breach of the ethics code rules,” Mr. Blatter said.
In a bid to tarnish Mr. Bin Hammam’s challenge, Mr. Blatter admitted earlier this year that Qatar and Spain and Portugal, which were jointly bidding for the right to host the 2018 Cup, had agreed to swap votes to strengthen each other’s’ bids. Blatter’s admission raised questions about a an earlier FIFA investigation that concluded that reports of the swap agreement were unfounded.
Calvert and Newell point further in their letter to:
-- An October 17,2010 Sunday Times story based on secret recordings that six former or current FIFA officials had officed their services as fixers for the Qatar World Cup bid;
-- A claim by Ismail Bhamjee, a former FIFA executive committee who was forced to resign in 2006 because of charges of corruption, that African members of the committee were being offered by Qatar payments of $250-500,000 in addition to soccer-related investments in their countries;
-- A claim by former FIFA General Secretary Michael Zen Ruffinen that Qatar had employed Amadou Diallo, a senior aide to CAF president Issa Hayatou to arrange its deals with African executive committee members.
Mr. Whittingdale further quoted allegations made by former FIFA executive committee member Amadou Diakite that Qatar had also offered committee members up to $1.2 million for projects.
Qatar’s successful World Cup bid has come under repeated attack since the December 2010 FIFA vote. Thomas Kistner, a prominent German sports journalist, charged that Qatar had bribed FIFA Vice President Julio Gondova as well as a Brazilian FIFA executive committee member, promised to build 22 stadiums in developing countries, and got French President Nicolas Sarkozi to persuade UEFA president Michel Platini to vote on its behalf.
Some of Mr. Kistner’s assertions were reported earlier in lesser detail by The Wall Street Journal, which said it had reviewed internal documents of the Qatar bid committee.
Mr. Kistner said Qatar had paid the football federations of Argentina and Brazil, whose presidents are FIFA executive committee members, $1 million each to have their national teams play one another in the Qatari capital Doha two weeks before the December FIFA vote on the hosting of the 2022 World Cup.
The match attracted few spectators but was attended by French star Zinedine Zidane and a former Argentine striker, who each were paid $1 million to support Qatar’s bid.
"In another twist, France's voting representative Michel Platini voted for Qatar after being told to do so by the country's President, Nicolas Sarkozy, who has been close to Qatar since signing energy deals in January 2008, when he also forecast France-Qatar trade contracts would be worth ‘billions’ in the future,” Mr. Kistner said.