AFP– A former top Qatari football official paid more than $5 million to get support for the tiny emirate’s controversial campaign to host the 2022 World Cup, a British newspaper alleged Sunday.
The Sunday Times said it had obtained millions of emails, documents and bank transfers relating to alleged payments made by Mohamed bin Hammam, who was then on the executive committee of FIFA, the sport’s global governing body.
It alleged that Bin Hammam, who is also a former Asian Football Confederation president, used slush funds to pay cash to top football officials to win a “groundswell” of support for Qatar’s World Cup bid.
Bin Hammam, who launched an abortive challenge against incumbent FIFA president Sepp Blatter, resigned from his FIFA and AFC posts in 2012, shortly before he was banned for life from football administration by FIFA’s ethics committee.
FIFA is investigating the 2010 vote that awarded the 2022 World Cup to Qatar and the 2018 tournament to Russia, following previous corruption accusations.
A report by FIFA chief investigator Michael Garcia, a top US lawyer, is to be finalised this year.
He is due to meet senior officials from the Qatar 2022 organising committee in Oman on Monday. But that meeting may now have to be postponed in light of The Sunday Times’ revelations.
FIFA and Qatar are already under pressure because the 2022 event will be held in the searing heat of the Qatar summer. FIFA’s president wants the tournament held in the northern hemisphere winter, for the first time, due to the problem.
British media have made repeated allegations about the Qatar campaign to secure the tournament however.
The Sunday Times put some of the cache of leaked documents online.
The broadsheet said Bin Hammam had made payments of up to $200,000 into accounts controlled by the presidents of 30 African football associations, and hosted hospitality events in Africa at which he handed out further funds, to get backing for Qatar’s bid.
Bin Hammam also paid $1.6 million into bank accounts controlled by Jack Warner, the former FIFA vice-president, $450,000 of which was before the vote for the World Cup, The Sunday Times said.
Warner was one of the 22 people who in 2010 decided to award Russia the 2018 World Cup and Qatar the 2022 tournament. He stood down in 2011.
The latest allegations come two months after British newspaper The Daily Telegraph alleged that a company owned by Bin Hammam had paid money to Warner.
Bin Hammam did not respond to questions from The Sunday Times and his son declined to comment on his behalf, the newspaper said.
It quoted the Qatari committee behind the World Cup bid as denying that Bin Hammam played any secret role in their campaign, or had any knowledge of the alleged payments.
There was no immediate response from the Qatar 2022 Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy when contacted by AFP.
The decision to give the World Cup to Qatar, a country with little football history, provoked widespread condemnation particularly over health concerns for leading players forced to play in the desert nation’s stifling summer heat.
Blatter said in May that it was a mistake to choose Qatar to host the 2022 World Cup due to the country’s sweltering summertime climate.
The new allegations will place FIFA under fresh pressure to re-run the vote for the 2022 World Cup, which was held in conjunction with the vote for the 2018 tournament.
Jim Boyce from Northern Ireland, one of FIFA’s eight vice-presidents, said he would be in favour of doing so if allegations of corruption in the Qatar bid were proven.
“We feel that any evidence whatsoever that people involved were bribed to do a certain vote, all that evidence should go to Michael Garcia,” he told BBC radio.
If Garcia finds “wrongdoing”, then Boyce said he would have “absolutely no problem whatsoever if the recommendation was for a re-vote”.
In the original December 2010 contest to host the tournament, Qatar received 11 votes, South Korea four, the United States and Japan three each, and Australia one in the first elimination round.
Qatar beat the United States by 14 votes to eight in the final round.