A British newspaper has alleged that a former FIFA executive committee member paid millions to gain support for Qatar's bid to host the 2022 World Cup. The report comes less than two weeks before the World Cup in Brazil.
The Sunday Times said it has obtained millions of secret documents proving that Mohamed Bin Hammam, a Qatari who used to be a member of FIFA's executive committee, exploited his position to help secure votes from key members of the 24-strong ruling committee that helped the country win the bid in December 2010.
The newspaper alleged that Bin Hammam made dozens of payments of up to $200,000 (147,000 euros) to top football officials to secure votes for Qatar. He allegedly deposited the money through slush funds into accounts controlled by the presidents of 30 African football associations. He also allegedly hosted lavish events for African officials where he also handed out almost $400,000 in cash.
Bin Hammam resigned from his post in 2012 after being caught up in a corruption scandal surrounding his failed campaign for FIFA presidency in 2011.
The newspaper also accused Bin Hammam of funneling more than $1.6 million into bank accounts controlled by Jack Warner, the former vice-president of FIFA, $450,000 of which was paid before the vote for the World Cup, the Sunday Times said.
Warner resigned in 2011 to avoid investigation in a bribery scandal linked to Bin Hammam's campaign for FIFA president. Warner was one of 22 people who awarded the 2018 World Cup to Russia and the 2022 tournament to Qatar.
Bin Hammam did not respond to questions from the Sunday Times, the newspaper said. Members of Qatar's bid committee denied that the former FIFA official played a secret role in their campaign.
The allegations come less than two weeks before the start of the World Cup in Brazil.
Controversy from the start
The decision to award football's biggest tournament to the tiny desert state of Qatar initially provoked widespread condemnation. Many have voiced concern that the Gulf Kingdom's stifling summer heat would be unhealthy for the players.
Qatar's human rights record has also come into sharp focus since the nomination, not least the treatment of migrant workers brought in for World Cup-related construction projects. Following a damning Amnesty International report last November about the "ruthless exploitation" of foreign staff in Qatar, FIFA launched an investigation to gain a "clear picture" on the situation.
In May, FIFA President Sepp Blatter told Swiss TV channel RTS that, in hindsight, he regretted the nomination of Qatar for FIFA's 2022 World Cup - but only with regard to weather concerns.
"Of course it was a mistake." Blatter told RTS. "But you know, we make a lot of mistakes in life." In the May interview he also disputed allegations that Qatar had "bought" the rights to host the World Cup. "No, I have never said it was bought, but that it was due to political considerations," he said.
hc/tj (AFP, AP)