Fifa’s decision to award the 2022 World Cup to Qatar came under further scrutiny as a British newspaper published new allegations that Mohamed Bin Hammam used his wealth and top level contacts to buy support for the oil-rich country’s successful bid.
The Sunday Times, which last week claimed that the former Fifa vice-president made payments worth $5-million to senior football officials to seal support for Qatar, also accused Bin Hammam of using $1.7-million to secure key Asian votes.
It alleged that Bin Hammam arranged government level talks for Thailand’s Fifa executive Worawi Makudi to discuss a gas sale “potentially worth tens of millions of dollars to Thailand” and that he was invited to visit Vladimir Putin before Russia and Qatar’s victories in the votes for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.
Under a front-page headline of “Gas deal turns heat on World Cup”, the newspaper alleged that Bin Hammam arranged meeting and favours for voters in the months leading to the ballots.
The 2010 vote, which awarded football’s biggest tournament to the tiny desert state, is under investigation by Fifa’s independent ethics prosecutor. Qatar organisers deny any wrongdoing.
In a statement released on Saturday following its executive committee’s second meeting of the year in São Paulo, Fifa said “the executive reaffirmed its position of letting the ethics committee complete its work before making any comment”.
According to the newspaper, which says it had access to millions of secret documents during its investigation, Bin Hammam brokered two secret meetings with Qatari royals to discuss a major gas deal with a senior aide to Makudi.
“The exact nature of the deal on the table is unclear, but it came as Thailand sought to save tens of millions of pounds by renegotiating an arrangement with Qatar to purchase 1m tons of liquefied natural gas each year at a contractual price it considered too high,” the newspaper said.
The Sunday Times said that Makudi denied that he had received a personal “concession” from his involvement but did not elaborate.
Bin Hammam is no longer a committee member of world football’s governing body after being caught up in a corruption scandal surrounding his failed campaign for its presidency in 2011.
The Sunday Times claimed that the $1.7-million Bin Hammam paid to Asian officials from funds controlled by his private company Kemco were used as he was campaigning for both the Qatar World Cup bid and for his own re-election to the post of president of the Asian Football Confederation.
The newspaper said he was invited to a meeting by Russia to discuss “bilateral relations” in sport between Qatar and Russia on October 30 2010, a month before the vote on the bids.
“Two days later, Qatar’s ruling emir also flew to Moscow for talks about joint gas production deals between the two countries,” the paper said. – AFP