FIFA World Cup in Qatar rocked by $6 million bribery scandal
A key official for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar has again been forced to deny explosive bribery allegations, after being accused of buying votes to secure the football showpiece for the Middle Eastern country.
Claims that a Qatar official offered more than $AUD6 million to voters from Africa - in order to help secure hosting rights for the 2022 World Cup - have resurfaced in a Netflix documentary released this week.
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The four-part show “FIFA Uncovered” directly put the question to key Qatari official Hassan Al-Thawadi — the bid campaign leader in 2010, now heading the World Cup organising committee — of whether he took part in offering $1.5 million ($AUD2.27 million) bribes to each of three FIFA voters from Africa.
Whistleblower Phaedra Almajid has claimed for more than a decade she was in the room with Al-Thawadi at a hotel in Angola in January 2010 when money was offered to the three men, who were among 24 voters set to pick the 2018 and 2022 World Cup hosts later that year.
Qatar won hosting rights for the 2022 tournament in a FIFA vote ahead of Australia, Japan, South Korea, and the USA, with Russia awarded the 2018 hosting rights during a joint-announcement in 2010.
Al Thawadi - now Secretary-general of the Supreme Committee in charge of the 2022 World Cup - is alleged to have made the offers to Issa Hayatou (Cameroon), Jacques Anouma (Ivory Coast), and Amos Adamu (Nigeria).
Almajid said on the documentary: “We were talking about how Africa had been given its chance to host the World Cup and how the Arab world should be given their chance, and then Hassan offered Hayatou $1 million for Hayatou’s football federation (Cameroon) and in return we wanted his vote.
“I remember there just being laughter and then him saying that is not enough, and so the price was upped to A$2.3m — just like that. It was just so simple: ‘We will give you this money for your football federation, you give us your vote and thank you so much.’
“One by one we did the same thing with Anouma and Adamu. A$2.3m was offered to each member that evening in exchange for their vote. It was verbal, I never saw money.”
Almajid claims the alleged bribes were made to the football federations, rather than the individual FIFA members.
She added: “It was made very clear the money was going to football, it was never said it is going into your pocket, I do need to emphasise that. Where it ended up I have no idea.
“Before I went back to my hotel room, Hassan told me, ‘You never repeat this ever again to anyone’ and I was like, ‘OK.’”
Qatar official denies bribery allegations
However, Qatar 2022 chief Al-Thawadi and the three African FIFA members in question, have strongly denied the allegations against them.
“My reaction, especially on the (whistleblower) Phaedra situation, it’s frustration. They are inherently false and there are facts on the ground that prove they are false," Al-Thawadi told interviewers for the Netflix show about the bribery allegations made against him.
Almajid’s claims added to a cloud of suspected wrongdoing hanging over Qatar long after it won the vote by FIFA’s executive committee in December 2010. Qatar's bid team has always insisted it followed campaign rules set by FIFA.
The alleged offers to African voters were detailed in May 2011 by a British parliamentary hearing which received evidence from The Sunday Times newspaper. They implicated, and were denied by, Issa Hayatou and Jacques Anouma plus a third man, Amos Adamu, who were suspended by FIFA for financial misconduct before the World Cup votes.
Almajid was in Angola working on the bid’s international media relations but was fired soon after.
She later testified to a FIFA-appointed investigation of the 2018-2022 bidders led by Michael Garcia, a former US Attorney in New York and now a judge in state courts.
Garcia’s report in 2014, which FIFA did not publish in full until 2017, dismissed Almajid’s evidence. It concluded she was wrong about another Qatari bid official witnessing the offers and suggested she had altered her evidence.
Almajid repeated her claims to “FIFA Uncovered” and said the cash was offered to Africans’ national soccer bodies and not the men personally.
Netflix is airing the FIFA documentary less than two weeks before the World Cup starts on November 21 (AEDT).
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