The organizers of the World Cup in Qatar have denied any wrongdoing in the bid that won them the 2022 tournament. The latest allegations came in a report by a British Sunday paper.
The Qatar 2022 Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy issued a statement on Sunday in which it said that its winning bid had "upheld the highest standard of ethics and integrity."
The statement added that the organizing committee was cooperating with US lawyer Michael Garcia, who is leading an investigation into the 2010 vote, which awarded the 2018 World Cup to Russia and the 2022 tournament to Qatar.
"We vehemently deny all allegations of wrongdoing. We will take whatever steps are necessary to defend the integrity of Qatar's bid," it added. "The right to host the tournament was won because it was the best bid."
Garcia's investigation stems from previous corruption allegations related to the awarding of the hosting rights to the two tournaments.
Sunday Times report
The statement came in response to a report in Britain's Sunday Times newspaper, which said it had obtained "hundreds of millions of emails, accounts and other documents" detailing payments totaling $5 million (3.67 million euros) allegedly made by Qatari former top soccer official Mohamed bin Hammam to build support for the Arab emirate's bid.
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.
Hammam was a member of the executive committee of FIFA, the sport's world governing body for 16 years. However, in 2012 he was banned for life from football administration for financial corruption stemming from his role as president of the Asian Football Confederation. He had resigned from both posts just before the ban was issued.
'No official or unofficial role'
Sunday's statement from the organizers insisted that Hammam had "played no official or unofficial role in the bid committee."
There was no immediate comment from FIFA on the Sunday Times report, with the governing body instructing the Associated Press to contact Garcia's New York law firm - which did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
These corruption accusations are just the latest controversy to surround the Qatar World Cup, with other concerns including the severe desert heat during the summer months in the region. Even FIFA President Sepp Blatter conceded in a radio interview last month that the decision to award the bid to Qatar had been "a mistake."
Qatar's human rights record has also come under scrutiny, in part due to reports of 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 of the situation.
pfd/msh (AFP, AP)