Investigation by British newspaper alleges network of payments for World Cup votes
Qatar had won the bid to host 2022 World Cup finals
USA, Australia, Japan and South Korea lost out
FIFA executive committee member calls for rerun of vote
As new allegations emerged surrounding the FIFA bidding process for the World Cup finals, an American former anti-terrorism lawyer will interview leading figures from Qatar’s bid team in Oman Monday.
Those interviews will take place against the backdrop of calls for a new vote on which country should host the 2022 event.
Qatar has promised laywer Michael Garcia “full cooperation” after soccer’s global governing body was engulfed in new scandal following a British newspaper’s damning investigation into the bidding process for the World Cup finals.
The story alleges a Qatari official paid more than $5 million in an attempt to secure support for his country’s successful bid to host the 2022 tournament.
The Sunday Times alleges that Mohamed bin Hammam made secret payments to soccer officials in the run up to the controversial ballot.
Bin Hammam, the former president of the Asian Football Confederation, was a member of FIFA’s powerful 24-person executive committee charged with voting on who hosted the finals at the time of the vote in 2010.
Despite the country’s small size, a technical report from FIFA calling its bid “high risk” and summer temperatures that can exceed 50 degrees Celsius (122 degrees Fahrenheit), Qatar shocked the world by winning the right to host the 2022 finals, defeating bids by the United States, Australia, Japan and South Korea.
FIFA vice-president Jim Boyce has said he would back a re-vote, potentially opening the possibility of the U.S. staging the 2022 tournament.
When FIFA voted on who should host the 2022 World Cup in 2010, the organization ‘s president Sepp Blatter reportedly voted for the U.S., while a potential rival for the presidency, UEFA chief Michel Platini, voted for Qatar.
’Millions’ of e-mails
The Sunday Times claims to have seen millions of e-mails detailing payments to officials in the Caribbean, Africa and the Pacific designed to secure support for the tiny, gas-rich Middle Eastern emirate’s quixotic bid to host the world’s most popular sports tournament.
“Bit by bit, we have been unraveling it and finally we hit the mother lode,” Sarah Baxter, deputy editor of the Sunday Times, told CNN in an interview.
“We’ve seen millions of documents that prove without a shadow of doubt that corruption was involved. There is clear evidence linking payments to people who have influence over the decision of who hosted the World Cup.
“You also have a bunch of officials with a bearing on the vote begging favors. They were prepared to sell their influence. What bin Hammam was doing was buying people up who could have influence.”
Denial from the 2022 bid committee
Mohamed bin Hammam responded by saying he would not be making any comments other than he believed “that the truth will find its way to (the) public one way or another.”
The Qatar 2022 bid committee strenuously denies any wrongdoing or knowledge of any payments made on its behalf.
“Mohamed bin Hammam played no official or unofficial role in Qatar’s 2022 Bid Committee,” it said in a statement sent to CNN.
“As was the case with every other member of FIFA’s executive committee, our bid team had to convince Mr. bin Hammam of the merits of our bid. …
“Following today’s newspaper articles, we vehemently deny all allegations of wrongdoing.
“We will take whatever steps are necessary to defend the integrity of Qatar’s bid and our lawyers are looking into this matter.
“The right to host the tournament was won because it was the best bid and because it is time for the Middle East to host its first FIFA World Cup.”
Dogged by allegations
Almost as soon as Qatar won the bid to host the 2022 World Cup finals, the process was dogged by allegations of bribery and corruption.
In the run-up to the 2010 vote, two FIFA executive committee members were suspended after another Sunday Times investigation filmed Nigeria’s Amos Adamu and Tahiti’s Reynald Temarii appearing to offer to sell their votes in exchange for money.
Bin Hammam was banned from all football-related activities for life after first being accused of offering bribes to soccer officials in the Caribbean seeking support for his doomed 2011 bid to replace Sepp Blatter as FIFA president.
He was cleared of those allegations after a hearing at the Court of Arbitration for Sport but was later banned for different “conflict of interest” charges relating to his time as AFC president.
The Sunday Times’ allegations come ahead of a FIFA-commissioned ethics investigation into the bidding process for the 2018 and 2022 tournaments.
That two-year investigation has been led by Garcia.