x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

World Cup 2022 committee denies knowledge of corruption

Qatar 2022 organising committee refute claims of bribery amid allegations of payments to Jack Warner, the former Fifa vice-president, and his family.

Jack Warner, left, who resigned from Fifa in 2012 following an investigation that found him to have committed fraud, is alleged to have received Dh4.4m from a company owned by Mohamed Bin Hammam, right, according to The Telegraph. Shirley Bahadur / AP Photo
Jack Warner, left, who resigned from Fifa in 2012 following an investigation that found him to have committed fraud, is alleged to have received Dh4.4m from a company owned by Mohamed Bin Hammam, right, according to The Telegraph. Shirley Bahadur / AP Photo

DUBAI // The Qatari committee charged with overseeing the 2022 Fifa World Cup has denied any knowledge of wrongdoing following new allegations of corruption in the English media.

The Daily Telegraph on Tuesday published claims of new evidence of payments made from a Qatari account controlled by Mohammed bin Hammam, the former president of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC), to Jack Warner, the former Fifa vice-president, two weeks after the gas-rich Gulf state was awarded the right to host football’s grandest tournament.

Warner, the Trinidadian who resigned from Fifa in 2012 following an investigation that found him to have committed fraud, received US$1.2 million (Dh4.4m) from Bin Hammam’s company, Kemco, according to The Telegraph.

His two sons and an employee were paid a further $1m by the same Qatari firm. A note from one of Warner’s companies, Jamad, had requested the initial payment for carried out between 2005 and 2010.

When contacted by The National, a spokesman for the Qatari project replied by email with a brief statement: “The 2022 Bid Committee strictly adhered to Fifa bidding regulations in compliance with their code of ethics. The Supreme Committee For Delivery & Legacy and the individual involved in the 2022 Bid Committee are unaware of any allegations surrounding business dealings between private individuals.”

Bin Hammam was in 2011 given a life ban from football for bribes made during his battle with Sepp Blatter for the Fifa presidency. The ban was later overturned, however, he was banned once more for “conflicts of interest” during his tenure as president of the AFC.

He was Fifa’s highest ranking Qatari official in December 2010, when the votes were cast to decide who would win the right to host the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.

Of the 22 figures on Fifa’s executive committee who were involved in the voting process, more than half are no longer members with many, including Warner and Bin Hammam, implicated in allegations of corruption.

The’s allegations are sure to bring further focus on Fifa’s decision to give the 2022 tournament to Qatar. The Arabian Gulf nation centered much of its successful bid around the creation of air-conditioned stadiums, but Blatter has said the tournament will take place in November or December to avoid the extreme heat the Middle East experiences in June and July.

Several media stories in the past year have also highlighted allegations by human-rights groups that labourers employed to work on World Cup 2022 projects have been abused, had passports confiscated and salaries denied.

Under the country’s kafala system, expatriates are not allowed to leave Qatar without their employer’s approval.

Blatter said last week that countries’ human rights records will be considered when awarding future World Cups, but that the 2018 and 2022 tournaments would not be affected.

“We don’t have any problem at the moment with 2018 in Russia and the problems with Qatar are known,” said the Fifa president, who is expected to run for re-election next April.

Qatar’s supreme committee also released a statement last week dismissing a report by the International Trade Union Confederation, describing it as “littered with factual errors” and an attempt to “discredit the positive work we are undertaking”. It added: ”No one has died on World Cup projects.”

Blatter and Fifa’s executive committee will meet tomorrow and Friday in Zurich for a pre-scheduled meeting. It is understood Qatar 2022 will be high on the agenda, behind only this summer’s World Cup in Brazil, which has been severely affected by delays in the construction of the country’s new stadiums.

gmeenaghan@thenational.ae

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