Michael Garcia to finish investigation into World Cup bids
Report into bidding process to be published six weeks after conclusion of investigation
2018 World Cup set to be held in Russia, 2022 tournament in Qatar
Mohamed bin Hammam denies all the allegations
As football’s reputation continues to be dragged through the mud following accusations of bribery during the FIFA World Cup bidding process, the man charged with repairing the sport’s image revealed he is close to concluding his investigation.
New York lawyer Michael Garcia, who is set to meet Qatari officials in Oman following allegations of wrongdoing, will finish his work on June 9 before publishing his report six weeks later.
In a statement published Monday, his office said: “After months of interviewing witnesses and gathering materials, we intend to complete that phase of our investigation by June 9, 2014, and to submit a report to the Adjudicatory Chamber approximately 6 weeks thereafter. The report will consider all evidence potentially related to the bidding process, including evidence collected from prior investigations.”
The statement comes a day after allegations surfaced claiming a Qatari official paid more than $5million in an attempt to secure support for his country’s successful bid to host the 2022 tournament.
According to allegations in The Sunday Times, Mohamed bin Hammam made secret payments to soccer officials in the run up to the controversial ballot.
Bin Hammam, the former president of the Asian Football Confederation, was a member of FIFA’s powerful 24-person executive committee charged with voting on who hosted the finals at the time of the vote in 2010.
Despite the country’s small size, a technical report from FIFA calling its bid “high risk” and summer temperatures that can exceed 50 degrees Celsius (122 degrees Fahrenheit), Qatar shocked the world by winning the right to host the 2022 finals, defeating bids by the United States, Australia, Japan and South Korea.
FIFA vice-president Jim Boyce has said he would back a re-vote, potentially opening the possibility of the U.S. staging the 2022 tournament.
Mark Pieth, who heads the FIFA Independent Governance Committee, believes the latest allegations could “shake FIFA to its foundations”.
He told CNN: “It’s the first time that an institution like FIFA has to ask itself whether it should totally re-run the decision of a host, the hosting decision, and the consequences could be massive. It could be about billions of dollars.
“At the moment, we have two options open. We could say ‘OK, let’s have the evidence, let’s run the case’.
“The problem is that there are two appeal bodies, this could drag on for two or three years, and in two or three years a lot has been planned and built, so the price tag is going to be really high.
“We’ve heard enough of Qatar now, let’s call a stop immediately, but the difficulty there is, who is going to prove corruption, right now?
“What we have at the moment is, obviously, emails and they would have to be tested, whether they’re genuine, they could be fake, so there has to be a thorough investigation conducted under all circumstances.”
When FIFA voted on who should host the 2022 World Cup in 2010, the organization ‘s president Sepp Blatter reportedly voted for the U.S., while a potential rival for the presidency, UEFA chief Michel Platini, voted for Qatar.
The Sunday Times claims to have seen millions of e-mails detailing payments to officials in the Caribbean, Africa and the Pacific designed to secure support for the tiny, gas-rich Middle Eastern emirate’s quixotic bid to host the world’s most popular sports tournament.
“Bit by bit, we have been unraveling it and finally we hit the mother lode,” Sarah Baxter, deputy editor of the Sunday Times, told CNN in an interview.
“We’ve seen millions of documents that prove without a shadow of doubt that corruption was involved. There is clear evidence linking payments to people who have influence over the decision of who hosted the World Cup.
“You also have a bunch of officials with a bearing on the vote begging favors. They were prepared to sell their influence. What bin Hammam was doing was buying people up who could have influence.”
Mohamed bin Hammam responded by saying he would not be making any comments other than he believed “that the truth will find its way to (the) public one way or another.”
The Qatar 2022 bid committee strenuously denies any wrongdoing or knowledge of any payments made on its behalf.
“Mohamed bin Hammam played no official or unofficial role in Qatar’s 2022 Bid Committee,” it said in a statement sent to CNN.
“As was the case with every other member of FIFA’s executive committee, our bid team had to convince Mr. bin Hammam of the merits of our bid. …
“Following today’s newspaper articles, we vehemently deny all allegations of wrongdoing.
“We will take whatever steps are necessary to defend the integrity of Qatar’s bid and our lawyers are looking into this matter.
“The right to host the tournament was won because it was the best bid and because it is time for the Middle East to host its first FIFA World Cup.”
Almost as soon as Qatar won the bid to host the 2022 World Cup finals, the process was dogged by allegations of bribery and corruption.
In the run-up to the 2010 vote, two FIFA executive committee members were suspended after another Sunday Times investigation filmed Nigeria’s Amos Adamu and Tahiti’s Reynald Temarii appearing to offer to sell their votes in exchange for money.
Bin Hammam was banned from all football-related activities for life after first being accused of offering bribes to soccer officials in the Caribbean seeking support for his doomed 2011 bid to replace Sepp Blatter as FIFA president.
He was cleared of those allegations after a hearing at the Court of Arbitration for Sport but was later banned for different “conflict of interest” charges relating to his time as AFC president.
The Sunday Times’ allegations come ahead of a FIFA-commissioned ethics investigation into the bidding process for the 2018 and 2022 tournaments.
That two-year investigation has been led by Garcia.
“We are cooperating fully with Mr. Garcia’s ongoing investigation and remain totally confident that any objective enquiry (sic) will conclude we won the bid to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup fairly,” the Qatar bid team added in its statement.”