Report: Qatar Bought World Cup With Over $5 Million In Secret Payments

Well, at least we know for sure, now. The Sunday Times has analyzed "hundreds of millions of emails, accounts and other documents," uncovering the secret payments former Qatari FIFA vice president Mohamed bin Hammam made to international soccer officials to back Qatar's bid to host the 2022 World Cup. So maybe the "mistake" wasn't just because of the heat?

The Times report is behind a paywall, but the BBC has also seen the emails and summarizes it if you don't want to subscribe.

Bin Hammam, Qatar's top soccer official, was banned from world soccer in 2011 when he was caught trying to bribe his way into the FIFA presidency. The ban was later lifted on appeal, but he was not cleared of the charges. Qatar football has always maintained that he was not a member of the bid committee and was merely a rogue agent who, it turns out, just happened to be very helpful to the bid. The documents the Times received—which includes emails, faxes, bank statements—show a close tie between bin Hammam and the Qatar bid committee.

Advertisement

Following the money trail, it's easy to see how he hoped to gain favor for the 2022 bid.

Buying support across Africa was central to Bin Hammam's strategy because the members of CAF exerted collective influence over how its block of four Exco members should vote. Several of the officials he paid held seats on CAF's ruling executive committee and another nine currently sit on standing committees of the Fifa executive.

Bin Hammam was able to secure votes with "lavish junkets" and straight-up cash. According to the Times at least one of these junkets with money goodie-bags was actually paid for by the Qatar bid. In 2009 bin Hammam hosted three key voters, and 35 other soccer officials in Doha, all on Qatar's dime.

In addition to these junkets, Hammam also made payments totalling up to $200,000 to accounts "controlled by the presidents of 30 African football associations" who were key to securing a pro-Qatar vote. Payments were made from 10 slush funds and bin Hammam's daughter's account.

Some of the emails obtained by the Times are remarkably brazen. One soccer official flat out asks for money in return for his support. In writing.

John Muinjo, president of the Namibian FA, emailed Bin Hammam promising that his federation "will always be behind you in its unequivocal support at all times"and adding that "we would want to be assisted with a once off financial assistance to the tune of U$50,000" to build football pitches.

Bin Hammam responded personally, pledging that it would be "delivered as soon as possible". Last week Muinjo said the money had never reached his account.

Bin Hammam also offered financial assistance to officials and worked to keep unfriendly voters away from the vote. He provided €305,000 to Oceanic executive committee member Reynald Temarii for legal services and private investigator fees. Temarii had been busted in a sting by reporters, admitting he took a $12 million bribe for his vote on the 2022 bidding process.

Temarii was suspended and a replacement voter, thought to be partial to Australia's and/or England's bid—but definitely not Qatar's—was going to vote. Two days before the vote, Temarii was set to step down, and allow his replacement to vote, but Bin Hammam apparently intervened and convinced him to appeal the suspension. This procedural move meant the Oceanic committee, a sure vote against Qatar, was disenfranchised.

Some other bin Hammam highlights:

Funnelled more than $1.6m directly into bank accounts controlled by Jack Warner, the Exco member for Trinidad and Tobago, including $450,000 before the vote

Used his position in charge of Fifa's Goal Programme funds to channel $800,000 to the Ivory Coast FA, whose Exco member Jacques Anouma agreed to "push very hard the bid of Qatar". He also signed off two payments of $400,000 each to the federations of two other voters

You should read the whole thing if you can. Many folks are calling for a divestment of Qatar's bid and a revote held to award a new home for the 2022 World Cup.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Plot to buy the World Cup [Sunday Times]