Qatar denies wrongdoing after newspaper allegation
GENEVA (AP) — Organizers of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar have denied fresh allegations of wrongdoing after a British newspaper report questioned the integrity of choosing the emirate as tournament host.
The Sunday Times said a “senior FIFA insider” had provided “hundreds of millions of emails, accounts and other documents” detailing payments totaling $5 million that Qatari official Mohamed bin Hammam allegedly gave football officials to build support for the bid.
Bin Hammam was a member of FIFA’s executive committee for 16 years and key power broker until being expelled in 2012 for financial corruption during his time as Asian Football Confederation president.
The Qatar 2022 organizing committee’s statement on Sunday stressed that Bin Hammam, a Qatari, “played no official or unofficial role in the bid committee.”
However, most FIFA executive committee voters in December 2010 were bin Hammam’s longtime colleagues. Among them, Ricardo Teixeira of Brazil, Nicolas Leoz of Paraguay and FIFA vice president Jack Warner of Trinidad and Tobago have since resigned while under investigation for corruption.
“The Qatar 2022 Bid Committee always upheld the highest standard of ethics and integrity in its successful bid,” the Qatari statement said, adding “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 Sunday Times alleged that bin Hammam paid for cash gifts, hospitality and legal fees for some FIFA colleagues, including Warner, and dozens of African football leaders.
FIFA ethics prosecutor Michael Garcia has received the new evidence to help his investigation of the 2018 and 2022 World Cup bidding contests, the newspaper reported.
Garcia was scheduled to meet with Qatari bid officials on Monday in Oman.
“We are cooperating fully with Mr. Garcia’s on-going investigation and remain totally confident that any objective enquiry will conclude we won the bid to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup fairly,” the Qatari statement said.
FIFA declined comment on Sunday about the reports, which revived calls for the 2022 World Cup vote to be re-run. Qatar defeated the United States in a final round after Australia, Japan and South Korea were eliminated.
Instead, football’s governing body suggested in a statement to “please kindly contact the office” of Garcia’s law firm in New York City.
The law firm, Kirkland and Ellis, did not respond immediately to requests for comment, or to confirm Garcia’s meetings with Qatar officials.
Garcia and his investigating team have been traveling across the world meeting officials who worked for the nine candidates ahead of the December 2010 votes. Russia won the 2018 hosting poll.
FIFA board member Jim Boyce, who joined in 2011 after Bin Hammam was initially suspended, said Sunday that he could support a re-vote if bribery could be proved.
“If Garcia’s report comes up and his recommendations are that wrongdoing happened for that vote for the 2022 World Cup, I certainly as a member of the executive committee would have absolutely no problem whatsoever if the recommendation was for a re-vote,” Boyce told the BBC’s Sportsweek radio program.
Garcia is scheduled to submit his report to FIFA ethics judge Joachim Eckert of Germany, who can recommend sanctions.
Football Federation Australia chief executive David Gallop told domestic media Monday that his federation was in a “watch-this-space” situation.
“We need to get more information about what’s been revealed in the last 48 hours,” Gallop told SEN radio. “But don’t be under any illusion that we haven’t been heavily involved in all of this for some time now.
“We’ve been involved in interviews, production of documents and also following carefully what’s been happening away from Australia — so we’ve got people that have been involved for some time now.”