A former FIFA executive facing a probe over $2m in payments he allegedly received from Qatar has dismissed the accusations as a “witch hunt” against the 2022 World Cup host.
According to the UK’s The Telegraph newspaper, US investigators are looking into payments allegedly made to a company controlled by ex FIFA vice president Jack Warner just days after the Gulf state was announced as the successful bidder for the tournament in 2010.
Those payments were said to have been made by a firm owned by Qatar’s Mohamed bin Hammam, who was at the time head of the Asian Football Confederation and has since been banned from the game for life over a separate bribes scandal.
“I have no interest in joining in the foolishness that is now passing as news on Qatar and Jack Warner. Nor do I intend to join those who are on a witch hunt against the World Cup 2022 venue. And do consider this as my final comment on this matter,” Warner, who stood down from world’s football governing body in 2011, was quoted as saying after hearing the allegations.
The Telegraph said that further payments were made to Warner’s sons and one of his employees, while it is understood that the US Federal Bureau of Investigation was probing Warner’s alleged links to the Qatari bid.
A document seen by the media outlet appeared to show that Trinidad-based Jamad, a company controlled by Warner, requested payment of $1.2m from Hammam’s business Kemco for works carried out between 2005 and 2010. The Telegraph said that the request was dated 15 December 2010, a fortnight after Qatar secured the rights to host the tournament, and requested that the payment be personally paid to Warner.
The payments to Warner’s sons and an employee were also made by Kemco, the newspaper reported.
At least one bank in the Cayman Islands reportedly refused to process the payment over fears of its legality, before being signed off via an unnamed bank in New York .That transfer reportedly caught the attention of US federal investigators.
“These payments need to be properly investigated. The World Cup is the most important event in football and we need to be confident that decisions have been made for the right reasons. There are lots of questions that still need to be answered,” an unidentified source told the newspaper.
Warner served as vice president of FIFA for 14 years and was one of 22 executives responsible for the decision to award the World Cup to the Gulf state.
Organisers behind the tournament in Qatar have denied any wrongdoing. “The 2022 bid committee strictly adhered to FIFA’s bidding regulations in compliance with their code of ethics,” a spokesperson for Qatar World Cup’s organising committee told The Telegraph.
“The supreme committee for delivery and legacy and the individuals involved in the 2022 bid committee are unaware of any allegations surrounding business dealings between private individuals,” they added.
The 2010 decision to award the rights to host the World Cup to Qatar has been shrouded in controversy for issues ranging from summer temperatures, which can reach up to 50 degrees Celsius, to allegations of bribery and maltreatment of the Gulf state’s foreign workforce.
Bin Hammam, a former FIFA presidential candidate, was banned for life from working in football for repeated violations of Article 19 (Conflict of Interest) of the FIFA Code of Ethics during his terms as AFC President and as member of the FIFA Executive Committee between 2008-2011.
Bin Hammam was accused of trying to buy the presidential votes of Caribbean officials by handing them $40,000 each in brown envelopes at a meeting in Port of Spain.
A separate investigation published by French Football magazine last year also accused former French president Nicolas Sarkozy, the country’s premier at the time, of colluding with Europe’s UEFA to hand the tournament to Qatar.
The magazine strongly inferred that UEFA boss Michel Platini was pressured by Sarkozy to switch his allegiance from supporting a US World Cup bid to that of Qatar during a dinner with the country’s emir at the Elysee Palace. Platini later denied the claims.
In 2011, former English Football Association chairman Lord Triesman claimed that four FIFA members had sought bribes in return for backing his country’s failed bid to host 2018 World Cup.
The members Triesman levelled the accusations at included Warner, as well as Nicolas Leoz, Ricardo Teixeira and Worawi Makudi.