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FIFA investigating possible bribery

Mohamed Bin Hammam, a candidate for the association's presidency, is alleged to have offered millions to delegates at a FIFA meeting in exchange for support in upcoming election. CONCACAF president is also involved.

May 25, 2011|By Grahame L. Jones
  • FIFA Vice President Jack Warner, left, and FIFA presidential hopeful Mohamed bin Hammam face an ethics investigation regarding bribery allegations.
FIFA Vice President Jack Warner, left, and FIFA presidential hopeful Mohamed… (Shirley Bahadur / Associated…)

At a meeting of African soccer leaders in Johannesburg, South Africa, last weekend, someone asked Joseph "Sepp" Blatter about corruption within FIFA, world soccer's governing body.

The 75-year-old incumbent president of FIFA was visibly angry at the question. "I do not accept it when somebody in this room says that FIFA is a corrupt organization," he said. "I do not accept that."

According to England's Guardian newspaper, Blatter hammered the table with his fist when making the point.

Within days, however, Blatter's own friends and allies on the 24-man FIFA executive committee were asking the same question, with American Chuck Blazer leading the charge.

In a report to Jerome Valcke, FIFA's general secretary, Blazer claimed that FIFA's ethics code might have been violated at a May 10-11 meeting in the Caribbean organized by Jack Warner, a FIFA vice president, and attended by Mohamed Bin Hammam, who is running against Blatter in the June 1 FIFA presidential election.

The allegations include bribery, with Bloomberg News quoting two unnamed sources alleging that Bin Hammam had "offered a total of about $2 million in cash to delegates" attending the Caribbean meeting as funds for "football development," allegedly in exchange for their support in the FIFA election.

As a result, FIFA's ethics committee Wednesday "opened a procedure against" Warner, Bin Hammam and two Caribbean Football Union officials, Debbie Minguell and Jason Sylvester.

The four have until Friday to respond and the ethics committee will hold a hearing on Sunday in Zurich, Switzerland, three days before FIFA's 208 member nations vote in the presidential race.

Bin Hammam, a 62-year-old Qatari who is president of the Asian Football Confederation, issued a statement Wednesday denying the allegations:

"This move is little more than a tactic being used by those who have no confidence in their own ability to emerge successfully from the FIFA presidential election.

"I completely deny any allegations of wrongdoing."

Warner, the president of CONCACAF, soccer's North and Central American and Caribbean governing body, said he would have no comment.

The latest scandal brings the total of FIFA executive committee members under investigation for alleged corruption to nine of the 24, with much of the scandal centering on "improper and unethical" behavior, including alleged bribery of members ahead of the vote last December on the location of the 2018 and 2022 World Cup tournaments, which were controversially awarded to Russia and Qatar.

Meanwhile, the suspicion lingered Wednesday that the latest allegations might have been engineered in order to discredit Bin Hammam and keep Blatter in office.

grahame.jones@latimes.com

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