London – A British newspaper alleged on Sunday that a former top Qatari football official paid $5 million (about R50 million) to get support for the emirate’s campaign to host the 2022 World Cup.
The Sunday Times said it had obtained millions of emails and other documents relating to alleged payments made by Mohamed Bin Hammam, the then Fifa executive member for Qatar.
It alleged that Bin Hammam, who is also the former Asian Football Confederation (AFC) president, used slush funds to pay out the 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 the global governing body's ethics committee.
The newspaper 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 vice-president of Fifa $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 Britain’s Daily Telegraph newspaper alleged that a company owned by 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.
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 because of the country’s sweltering summer climate.
Meanwhile, Fifa has declined to comment on the newspaper report that questioned the integrity of choosing Qatar as 2022 World Cup host.
The newspaper said it shared evidence with Fifa ethics prosecutor Michael Garcia who is investigating the 2018-2022 World Cup bidding contests.
Fifa did not comment, instead suggesting “please kindly contact the office” of Garcia's law firm in New York City.
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.– Sapa-AFP