Day of reckoning dawns for Bin Hammam

One of the biggest corruption scandals in soccer history will conclude on Saturday when Mohamed bin Hammam learns his fate following a two-day Fifa ethics committee hearing here.

The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) president, suspended since May 29, chose not to attend Friday’s opening day behind closed doors at Fifa headquarters in Zurich and struck a pessimistic tone on his personal blog.

“It seems likely that Fifa has already made its decision weeks ago,” he wrote. “So none of us should be completely surprised if a guilty verdict is returned.”

If found guilty of attempted bribery, Bin Hammam faces a life ban from football activities.

He would also become the most senior Fifa official to be convicted of corruption.

The verdict will be delivered by Namibian judge Petrus Damaseb, chairperson of a five-person ethics committee panel that considered evidence submitted by Bin Hammam’s legal team and other witnesses on Friday.

Bin Hammam is expected to learn his fate sometime after 12am GMT.

The 62-year-old Qatari, who played a key role when his country was sensationally awarded the right to host the 2022 World Cup, is accused of seeking to buy votes in the Fifa presidential election earlier this year.

Whistle-blowers said Bin Hammam tried to bribe officials to vote for him by distributing envelopes each containing $40 000 during a Caribbean Football Union (CFU) meeting in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, on May 10 and 11.

CFU officials Debbie Minguell and Jason Sylvester are also being investigated by the ethics committee over claims they helped hand out the money, although neither was expected to attend Saturday’s hearing.

Former Fifa vice-president and Concacaf president Jack Warner was also charged over his alleged role in the affair, but his resignation from Fifa last month prompted the organisation to drop all the charges against him.

Bin Hammam’s subsequent withdrawal from the presidential election gifted a fourth straight term in office to his former ally Sepp Blatter, who has pledged to clean up Fifa’s tarnished image.

A lifetime ban for Bin Hammam would send shockwaves rippling through Asian football, but he has vowed not to go quietly.

“Rest assured … that justice will eventually prevail,” he said on Friday, “whether through the Fifa ethics committee, the court of arbitration for sport or, if necessary, through other courts or legal proceedings in courts where we will be equal and no special privileges will be granted to either party.” – AFP

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