Qatar's 2022 World Cup Bid Hit With Fresh Corruption Claims, FIFA Refuses Comment
The "secret payments" that helped Qatar win the 2022 World Cup bid have been revealed "in a bombshell cache of millions of documents," according to Calvert & Blake of the SUNDAY TIMES. The files "expose how Qatar’s astonishing victory" in the race to secure the right to host the 2022 tournament "was sealed by a covert campaign" by Qatari VP of FIFA Mohamed bin Hammam. Bin Hammam "used secret slush funds to make dozens of payments" totalling more than $5M to senior football officials "to create a groundswell of support for Qatar’s plan to take world football by storm." The Sunday Times claimed that it "will expose how Bin Hammam exploited his position at the heart of world football to help to secure from the key members of FIFA’s 24-man ruling committee the votes that Qatar needed to win." The files, compiled by analyzing an electronic database of hundreds of millions of emails, accounts and other documents, "unlock the mystery of how a tiny desert state with no football infrastructure won the right to host the world’s biggest sporting tournament." This week the Times will "reveal" how Bin Hammam:
- Used 10 slush funds controlled by his private company and cash handouts "to make dozens of payments of up to $200,000 into accounts controlled by the presidents of 30 African football associations."
- Hosted "a series of lavish junkets for football presidents across Africa at which he handed out almost $400,000 in cash."
- Paid out at least €305,000 in legal and private detective fees for disgraced Oceania Exco member Reynald Temarii "after he was suspended" for telling undercover reporters that he had been offered $12M for his vote.
- Funneled more than $1.6M "directly into bank accounts" controlled by Trinidad and Tobago exco member Jack Warner, including $450,000 before the vote.
CALL FOR RE-VOTE: In London, Robin De Peyer reported FIFA VP Jim Boyce said he would "support a re-vote to find a new host" for the event. Boyce: "I would have no problem if the recommendation was for a re-vote. If Garcia reports that wrongdoing happened for the 2022 vote then it has to be looked at very seriously" (EVENING STANDARD, 6/1). The AP reported 2022 Qatar World Cup organizers have denied "all wrongdoing." The Qatar 2022 bid committee's statement stressed that Bin Hammam "played no official role in the bid committee." However, most FIFA voters in Dec. '10 "were Bin Hammam's longtime colleagues" (AP, 6/1).
FIFA DECLINES COMMENT: The AP also reported that FIFA "declined comment." FIFA "has not commented on details of Garcia's work since he was appointed to the independent ethics committee two years ago." Instead, FIFA suggested in a statement to "please kindly contact the office" of Garcia's law firm in N.Y. The law firm, Kirkland and Ellis, "did not respond immediately to requests for comment, or to confirm that Garcia will meet Qatar bid officials on Monday in Oman" (AP, 6/1).
PRE-EXISTING PROBLEMS: In London, Roger Blitz reported Qatar World Cup organizers "have always maintained" that Bin Hammam, who was a FIFA exec committee member at the time of the vote, "played no role in its bid campaign." The new claims "are not the first problems to beset Qatar’s hosting of the tournament." Human rights groups "have also accused the emirate of failing to protect the rights of thousands of workers who are building the infrastructure for the competition." Last month, Doha responded "by promising to abolish labour regulations that create conditions tantamount to slavery, but human rights groups called the measures vague and said they did not go far enough" (FINANCIAL TIMES, 6/1).
AUSTRALIA WATCHES: In Sydney, Sebastian Hassett reported Football Federation Australia "will adopt a wait-and-see approach" to the revelations. As "external pressure increases on FIFA to undertake a new vote, FFA says it is keeping a very keen eye on the developments." An FFA spokesperson said, "We note these are very serious allegations. We’ve been monitoring FIFA’s investigations for many months and we’ll be keenly interested in their response. But at this stage, we can only continue to encourage a thorough process which covers all the facts as soon as possible." FFA Chair Frank Lowy "has often uttered the same, cryptic line in the past whenever improper allegations about Qatar have surfaced." He said, “The last word has not been heard.” But for all the speculation about the possibility of the World Cup being taken away from Qatar, "it remains highly unlikely." The "only men who can make it happen" are FIFA’s exec committee, who "will have to overturn their original decision." Doing so "will be seen as an admission of guilt" (SYDNEY MORNING HERALD, 6/2). In Sydney, Will Swanton wrote Australia "is ready to reapply" for the 2022 World Cup. The FFA "will give serious consideration" to vying for the '22 event, despite the "widespread criticism it attracted" for spending A$43M ($40M) on Australia’s failed bid in '10, when it attracted just one delegate’s vote. Australia, Japan, South Korea and the U.S. "were all considered more suitable venues than Qatar, and the four nations may again vie for the hosting rights to the 2022 event should the Arab nation be dumped." Alexandra Wrage, a former member of FIFA’s independent governance committee, called the evidence “a smoking gun,” while British MP John Whittingdale said there was now an “overwhelming case that the decision as to where the World Cup should be held in 2022 should be run again” (THE AUSTRALIAN, 6/2). In Melbourne, Michael Lynch reported Garcia "held clandestine meetings in Sydney with FFA officials late last year as part of his investigations." Garcia came to Australia before Christmas "and met" Lowy and others who were involved in mounting Australia's failed campaign to host the event, including former FFA Chair Ben Buckley (THE AGE, 6/2).
DISARMING QATAR: In London, Matt Hughes wrote "it will take more than the 'hundreds of millions' of emails the paper has showcased so exhaustively to take the tournament away from Qatar." There "is very little appetite within FIFA to reopen the bidding for 2022, not least because they are in the middle of organising the painstaking process of moving the event to winter, and they will not do so unless they have no choice." For that prospect to become a reality, it "is likely to require the decisive intervention of an outside agency, such as the FBI" (SUNDAY TIMES, 6/1). Also in London, Owen Gibson wrote "the fog around how and why" 14 of the 22 FIFA exec committee members ultimately ignored FIFA's own technical report -- which highlighted the potential health risk to players, officials and spectators and described Qatar's plans as "high risk" -- is "clearing bit by bit." Some "might argue Qatar was simply playing the game that others had pursued for decades." But for Qatar the sums "were even bigger, the stakes even higher and the potential loss of face even more catastrophic if it is ultimately stripped of the tournament." Part of the reason for bidding for the World Cup "was to raise its profile in the eyes of the world." So far, "it has done so for all the wrong reasons" (GUARDIAN, 6/1).