World Cup bids corruption: ‘Picasso painting offered as kickback’

Story highlights

Further allegations published around award of 2018 and 2022 World Cups

UK parliamentary committee reveals details of a 'secret dossier' obtained by the Sunday Times

Dossier was allegedly commissioned by failed 2018 England bid

Claims made over using priceless art as inducement by Russia 2018 bid

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Expensive works of art offered as inducements are at the center of the latest series of damaging allegations around the bidding process for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, a published report claimed.

A painting, believed to be a Picasso, was allegedly gifted to Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) president and FIFA executive member Michel Platini in return for his support for the eventually successful Russian bid for the 2018 global showpiece.

Another FIFA voting member, Michel D’Hooghe, from Belgium, was also the recipient of a landscape painting, given to him in a package wrapped in brown paper by Viacheslav Koloskov, a former Russian executive committee member working for his nation’s attempt to host the 2018 tournament, it is alleged in a report in The Sunday Times.

“Allegations’ in the Sunday Times relating to my actions in the 2018 and 2022 bidding processes are total fabrications,” said former French international star Platini.

“The matter has now been passed to my legal advisers.”

Read: Whistleblower who took on FIFA power brokers

D’Hooghe told the Sunday Times that he believed the painting given to him, was “absolutely ugly” and he believed it had no value. He said he had not voted for the Russian bid.

The newspaper’s latest revelations are based on evidence it supplied to a UK parliamentary committee, which itself has been investigating the circumstances around the award of the World Cup host countries, particularly in the light of England’s failed bid for the 2018 competition.

The House of Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee (DCMS) has now published details of the investigations by the Sunday Times which claim the England bid commissioned “high-level intelligence gathering and and surveillance on the other countries bidding to host the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.”

It also claims England’s bid used private security companies and a former member of the UK government’s intelligence service MI6 to gather information on its rivals.

Read: FIFA launches criminal cases over 2018/22 bids

The previously unreported material contains a series of claims around the role allegedly played by Russian President Vladimir Putin in making sure his country would host football’s premier competition, hard on the heels of winning the rights to stage the Sochi Winter Olympics earlier this year.

It claims that Putin was initially skeptical about Russia’s bid but had later thrown his full weight behind the process. “He (Putin) took a personal interest in the running of the bid in mid-2010,” the committee report reveals.

Under the heading, “Intelligence relating to Russia 2018” a series of allegations are revealed about Putin’s role in brokering a major bilateral trade deal for gas with Qatar, the winners of the 2022 bid, in exchange for each others votes and the votes of others of their supporters.

The allegations also detail the plundering of Russia’s national art collection, either from the vaults of the State Hermitage Museum in St.Petersburg or the Kremlin archives, as alleged kickbacks to Platini and D’Hooghe.

In a statement given to CNN, officials behind the Russian bid have also strongly denied any wrongdoing.

“Russia 2018 categorically rejects all of the allegations made in the Sunday Times today as entirely unfounded speculation,” it said.

Read: FIFA embroiled in ‘civil war’

“These allegations are not new, but the evidence has only ever indicated that Russia 2018 behaved professionally and fairly throughout the bidding process.

“The Russia 2018 Bid Committee operated in full compliance with the spirit and letter of FIFA’s Code of Ethics, and sought to abide by the FIFA bidding guidelines at all times.

“This kind of speculation will not affect Russia 2018’s focus on doing what we have been doing for nearly four years already: making great progress towards our objective of hosting the best ever FIFA World Cup in 2018.”

The alleged pivotal role of FIFA president Sepp Blatter in the bidding process is also highlighted in the published reports of the DCMS and the Sunday Times.

The claim is made that Blatter and Putin “jointly ‘hit the phones’ to drum up votes for Russia on the eve of the secret ballot in Zurich on December 2, 2010.”

Blatter was “absolutely committed” to the Russian bid it was said.

Read: Platini breaks silence over Garcia investigation

Earlier this month, football’s world governing body published a report that cleared Russia and Qatar of any wrongdoing in their winning of the hosting rights for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.

But within hours of the announcement, Michael Garcia, the U.S. attorney who had led the investigation, went public with his disappointment at the findings, labeling them “incomplete and erroneous” and claiming that his work had been misrepresented.

The saga took a further twist when FIFA later announced it had lodged a criminal complaint in the Swiss courts into the “possible misconduct of individual persons in connection with the awarding of the hosting rights of the 2018 and 2022 World Cup.”

FIFA told CNN Sunday that it was unable to comment on the specific allegations in the DCMS and Sunday Times reports.

“Matters related to the 2018/2022 inquiry are solely handled by the Investigatory Chamber of the independent FIFA Ethics Committee,” it said.

“Therefore we are not in a position to comment on on-going proceedings nor on names and other information circulated in the media, particularly as we do not know against which individuals and for what reasons investigations are in process nor do we know the details of what is actually in the investigation reports.”

It added: “The independent Chairman of the Audit and Compliance Committee Domenico Scala is currently evaluating the matter to decide on the next steps including the compiling of relevant information from the investigation which needs to be provided to the FIFA Executive Committee.

“In parallel, the entire reports have been provided to the Swiss General Attorney. As such, FIFA has no further comment for the time-being.”

Read: English FA hits back of FIFA ‘corruption’ claims

Meanwhile, the English Football Association also responded Sunday to the reports, claiming that the 2018 bid chairman Andy Anson and his team had fully co-operated with the original FIFA investigation.

“The Fifa Ethics Committee made specific requests and responding to these requests involved searching in excess of 500,000 documents,” the Guardian newspaper reported.

“The search parameters were established with Mr Garcia’s office. The documents searched included intelligence gathered by the bid team. All documents within the search parameters were disclosed.”

It added that Anson had only shared with Garcia information that could be substantiated. “Everything else was hearsay, gossip and rumor,” it added.

The UK Parliament is set to debate the findings of the DCMS report Monday.

Read: Platini ‘disillusioned’ with FIFA