Qatar under increased scrutiny with IOC investigation into bribery charges
Qatar’s successful bid to host the 2022 World Cup is coming under increasing scrutiny with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) alongside world football body FIFA looking into allegations that the Gulf State bribed FIFA executive committee members.
The IOC says that, like FIFA, it has asked British newspaper The Sunday Times for evidence of the paper’s assertions that Qatar bought the votes of Confederation of African Football president Issa Hayatou and fellow FIFA executive committee member Jacques Anouma for $1.5 million each.
“The IOC takes all allegations of corruption very seriously and we would ask for any evidence of wrongdoing to be passed to the IOC’s ethics commission,” said IOC communications director Mark Adams.
The Sunday Times made the allegations in a letter to the British parliament’s Culture, Media and Sports Select Committee, which is looking into soccer governance.
Qatar has denied the allegations. So have Mr. Hayatou and Mr. Anouma, who said they might seek legal redress from The Sunday Times. Mr. Anouma described the allegations as malicious.
“(The) CAF president is ready to cooperate with whosoever would like to investigate the accusations and reserves the right to seek legal redress against those propagating this campaign of denigration. This kind of reporting to create and propagate false information to destroy his reputation, leadership and integrity, will not succeed,” Mr. Hayatou said in a statement released by CAF.
The statement acknowledged, however, that Qatar paid CAF for the right to present its bid to the African body, one of the six constituent members of FIFA.
It is the first recorded incident of a bidding country paying for the right to address a congress of one of FIFA’s confederations.
“In an attempt to drum up support for their bid, the Qatar bid committee offered CAF $1.8 million, sponsoring fee for (the) CAF General Assembly. In return, Qatar 2022 Bid Committee was given the exclusive rights to address the general assembly and make presentations to members,” CAF said.
FIFA president Sepp Blatter, who is fending off a challenge from Asian Football Confederation (AFC) president Mohammed Bin Hammam, a Qatari national, in presidential elections scheduled for the end of this month, has promised to “react immediately” once he receives The Sunday Times’ evidence.
The allegations cast a shadow over both Mr. Blatter and Mr. Bin Hammam’s election campaigns. Mr. Blatter’s imperious 12-year tenure as FIFA president has been tarnished by repeated corruption scandals. FIFA is currently also investigating a match-fixing scandal in which hundreds of games are believed to have been fixed in recent years. Mr. Bin Hammam has been linked to the intermediary that Qatar is said to have used to bribe the two FIFA executive committee members.
FIFA’s ethics committee last year banned two other FIFA executive committee members, Amos Adamu of Nigeria and Reynald Temarii of Tahiti, after The Sunday Times taped them seeking bribes.
A third of the 24 FIFA executive committee members currently stand accused of corruption. Former English FA and England 2018 World Cup bid chairman David Triesman told the House of Commons committee those four members—Jack Warner, Worawi Makudi, Nicolas Leoz and Ricardo Teixeira—had demanded improper inducements in return for their votes for the failed England 2018 World Cup bid.
The Sunday Times allegations against Mr. Hayatou follow a BBC Panorama report last year that charged the African soccer chief was among three FIFA executives, including Mr. Leoz, who had accepted bribes in advance of last December’s awarding of the 2022 cup to Qatar and the 2018 tournament to Russia.
The IOC denied at the time that the three were under investigation but said it had asked the BBC for its evidence. Mr. Adams said the committee was seeking to authenticate the documents it received.
Former FIFA secretary general Michel Zen-Ruffinen told the British parliamentary committee that Amadou Diallo, a Paris-based African businessman, who is an aide to Mr. Hayatou and whom Mr. Bin Hammam describes as “a good friend,” had facilitated the Qatari bribes paid to the two African FIFA executive committee members.
Mr. Bin Hammam, who is campaigning for the FIFA presidency on a platform calling for greater transparency, has denied the allegations and said that Mr. Diallo had not been engaged by the Qatar bid.
Mr. Amadou was “a close friend of mine and if you know the role he plays you will laugh at these allegations. He's simply a friend of mine and he has nothing to do with Qatar or anyone,” Mr. Bin Hammam said.
Despite the allegations against several executive committee members, Mr. Bin Hammam insisted that FIFA as an organization was not corrupt.
“I will happily and unreservedly restate that I firmly believe FIFA, as a decision-making body and as an organization, isn't corrupt. It is impossible to deny that its reputation has been sullied beyond compare. It’s time for that to change,” he said.
(James M. Dorsey, formerly of The Wall Street Journal, is a senior researcher at the National University of Singapore’s Middle East Institute and the author of the blog, The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer. He can be reached via email at: [email protected])