Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 28 May 2020

Fifa officials ‘bribed’ over Qatar 2022 vote

US prosecutors claim three senior administrators from South America were paid to back Qatar

Sepp Blatter reveals Qatar as the hosts of the 2022 World Cup in 2010. AP Photo
Sepp Blatter reveals Qatar as the hosts of the 2022 World Cup in 2010. AP Photo

Three senior Fifa officials were bribed to vote for Qatar to host the 2022 World Cup in the latest blow to the credibility of the tournament, according to US prosecutors.

Three South American members of Fifa’s executive committee in 2010 were paid to back Qatar, which defeated the United States to land the most prestigious and lucrative single-event sporting event in the world, according to documents published on Monday.

The 70-page indictment claimed the men bribed were senior administrators in Brazil, Argentina and the head of the South American federation. It did not identify the sums paid, but said that two other executives were paid a total of $6 million to back Russia for the 2018 event.

Qatar was eventually awarded the tournament in 2010 after four rounds of voting when Qatar beat the US by 14 votes to eight.

“Several executive committee members were offered or received bribes in connection with their votes,” according to the indictment against 17 defendants unsealed for the first time. The South American trio were “offered and received bribe payments in exchange for their votes in favour of Qatar to host the 2022 World Cup”.

Qatar’s organising committee denied the claims and said “evidence has never been produced to demonstrate that Qatar won the rights to host the Fifa World Cup 2022 unethically or by means that contravened Fifa’s strict bidding rules”.

The committee “maintains that it strictly adhered to all rules and regulations for the 2018/2022 Fifa World Cup bidding process and any claim to the contrary is baseless and will be fiercely contested”.

The three men included Nicolas Leoz, the head of the South American football association, who died last year, aged 90, while fighting extradition to the United States on corruption charges.

The only one of the men still alive, Ricardo Teixeira, remains in Brazil where he once headed the sport’s governing body for 13 years. Brazil does not extradite its own citizens.

The voting process has been mired in suspicion for years but the charges were the first time that authorities confirmed through criminal charges how the alleged bribes were funnelled to ensure Qatar won the vote.

Fifa has always insisted that the tournament in late 2022 would go ahead despite the scandal surrounding the vote.

In 2014, Fifa, then under the control of disgraced former President Sepp Blatter, cleared Russia and Qatar of wrongdoing in their bids to host the World Cup after an investigation.

Mr Blatter was subsequently banned from football by Fifa along with scores of other officials following internal ethics investigations, promoted by the arrests of seven Fifa officials on US corruption charges in Zurich in May 2015.

The US government has accused a total of 45 people and various sports companies of more than 90 crimes and of paying or accepting more than $200 million in bribes.

A Fifa spokesperson said the organisation would continue “to provide full cooperation” to investigations into alleged corruption.

“So far as Fifa is concerned, should any acts of criminal wrong-doing by football officials be established, the individuals in question should be subject to penal sanctions.”

Updated: April 7, 2020 08:35 PM

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