News Middle East

Friday 19 September 2014

World Cup officials bribed with private jet trips and credit cards, probe is told

Holly Watt, Claire Newell and Ben Bryant

Published 04/06/2014 | 02:30

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UEFA President Michel Platini shakes hands with Real Madrid's Gareth Bale during the UEFA Champions League Final at at the Estadio da Luiz, Lisbon, Portugal. PA
UEFA President Michel Platini shakes hands with Real Madrid's Gareth Bale during the UEFA Champions League Final at at the Estadio da Luiz, Lisbon, Portugal. PA

Fifa's chief investigator is examining allegations that officials who voted in the 2022 World Cup ballot were given all-expenses-paid trips to Qatar, complete with pre-loaded credit cards, shortly before the vote.

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Michael Garcia, who has been investigating the bidding process for two years, is looking into claims that football officials and their spouses were taken to Doha, the capital of the gulf state, on a private jet, and were showered with gifts.

Several executive members – who are responsible for deciding which countries host the World Cup – joined the expenses-paid trip in the run-up to the decision to award Qatar the tournament.

The news comes as the president of Uefa, Michel Platini, admitted that he had met Mohamed Bin Hammam, the Qatari who paid millions of euro to football officials around the world, shortly before he voted for Qatar in 2010. There is no suggestion that Mr Platini was paid any money.

"Mr Bin Hammam was seeking to convince me to stand for the Fifa presidency in the 2011 elections," Mr Platini said.

Sources close to the former French footballer told the newspaper 'Le Monde' that he believed that news of the meeting had been leaked by Sepp Blatter, the president of Fifa.

Mr Garcia is investigating irregularities surrounding the 2018 and 2022 bidding process. He is expected to complete his report next week, days before this year's tournament begins in Brazil.

Mr Garcia, a senior partner at a New York law firm and counter terrorism prosecutor for President George W Bush, has spent several months and millions of pounds flying around the world to interview people involved in the decision to hold the World Cup in Russia in 2018 and then Qatar four years later. He met senior officials from the Qatar bid team in Oman earlier this week.

Qatar has denied that Mr Bin Hammam, the former head of the Asian Football Confederation and member of the Fifa executive committee, was connected to its bid to host the tournament, and has also always denied any wrongdoing. However, Fifa is under huge pressure to reopen the vote which handed the gulf state the World Cup.

Serious questions have been raised about the difficulties of holding the tournament in a country where the temperature can reach 50C in the summer. There have been some suggestions that the competition should be moved to winter, but this would have serious consequences for leagues and broadcasters around the world.

Payments

Hundreds of workers have been killed building the infrastructure for the stadiums, and there are also concerns about Qatari attitudes towards homosexuality and alcohol. Sponsors are thought to be raising questions about payments that Mr Bin Hammam has made to Fifa officials – keen not to sully their corporate image by association.

'The Daily Telegraph' revealed in March that the former Fifa executive committee member Jack Warner was paid almost €1.5m by a company called Kemco, which is connected to Mr Bin Hammam. Last weekend, 'The Sunday Times' published information from emails which showed hundreds of thousands of dollars being channelled to African officials from slush funds controlled by Mr Bin Hammam. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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