FIFA ethics investigator won’t review new corruption allegations against Qatar

BY Robert Pursell  June 3, 2014 at 4:07 PM EST
Support for Qatar’s hosting of the 2022 FIFA World Cup has been dwindling amid allegations of bribery and appalling labor conditions. Photo by Flickr user Aslan Media

Support for Qatar’s hosting of the 2022 World Cup has been dwindling amid allegations of bribery and appalling labor conditions. Photo by Flickr user Aslan Media

Despite criticism for a lack of transparency and allegations of corruption, the ethics head of soccer’s governing body, FIFA, announced Monday he would not review new evidence of corruption surrounding Qatar’s winning bid to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

FIFA’s chief ethics investigator Michael Garcia made the announcement after a report by The London Sunday Times alleged that the Qatari former vice president of FIFA, Mohamed bin Hammam, paid as much £3 million — a little more than $5 million — to secure his position at FIFA and to ensure Qatar’s 2022 World Cup bid beat out other nations. In its investigation, the Times said it obtained millions of files, including personal emails and bank account statements, linking bin Hammam to a covert campaign in which he provided cash, gifts and legal fees as bribes to senior officials in order to influence the December 2010 vote that Qatar won, 14-8, over the United States.

Garcia noted that he has already spent more than a year investigating allegations of bribery and corruption related to the 2018 and 2022 tournaments. The Guardian reported that it would also be impractical for Garcia to attempt a review of the files days before the June 9 deadline to conclude his investigation.

“After months of interviewing witnesses and gathering materials, we intend to complete that phase of our investigation by June 9, 2014, and to submit a report to the adjudicatory chamber approximately six weeks thereafter,” Garcia said in a released statement.

Those words may not be enough to curb public backlash over his decision not to investigate the Times’ allegations.

“If the Garcia investigation refuses to accept The Sunday Times evidence the (investigation) process will be a sham and FIFA will be forever tainted,” said Jim Murphy, a British member of Parliament.

“Corruption must be tackled.”

Qatar’s World Cup bid has been wrought with controversy since it was announced. Aside from the claims of bribery, allegations of slave labor have plagued the construction of Qatar’s World Cup infrastructure. The Guardian reported in September instances of forced labor and highlighted the substandard working conditions that have already led to the deaths of at least 185 Nepalese migrant workers, with as many as 4,000 more predicted to die before Qatar’s preparations are finished.

One of FIFA’s eight vice presidents, Jim Boyce, said he would support a new vote on the Qatar bid, if Garcia’s investigation uncovers corruption in the bidding process.