Qatar faces fresh allegations of sports bribery after a British newspaper obtained evidence of alleged payments to football officials in exchange for support of the country’s bid to host the World Cup.
As The Sunday Times’ Jonathan Calvert and Heidi Blake report, the leaked documents, which include “hundreds of millions of emails”, show how Mohamed bin Hammam, Qatar’s top football official, used 10 slush funds — controlled by his Kemco construction company — to make payments to the heads of dozens of African football associations, and held a series of lavish junkets for football officials. The payments reportedly totaled more than $5 million.
FIFA rules forbid bid committees from giving officials gifts or trying to influence them in any way, yet accusations of corruption are rampant in the organization. The decision to award the Cup to Qatar has been so controversial that FIFA chiefs and politicians are now calling for a revote to chose a different host for the 2022 World Cup.
Qatar released a statement defending itself against the allegations, which read: "The Qatar 2022 Bid Committee always upheld the highest standard of ethics and integrity in its successful bid... We vehemently deny all allegations of wrongdoing. We will take whatever steps are necessary to defend the integrity of Qatar's bid and our lawyers are looking into this matter." It's the second time The Sunday Times has found evidence apparently showing Qatar's bribery. According to the Associated Press, the paper sent evidence to a British parliamentary inquiry in 2010 alleging that Cameroon’s Issa Hayatou and the Ivory Coast’s Jacques Anouma were paid $1.5 million in exchange for voting for Qatar to host.
Corruption allegations against Qatar come less than two weeks before the start of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, which also also been plagued with its own problems, including public protests, police violence, and the deaths of several construction workers. Last week, FIFA president Sepp Blatter admitted that it was a “mistake” to hand the 2022 tournament to Qatar, largely because of stifling summer temperatures that can soar up to 120 degrees Fahrenheit. But Blatter failed to mention the treacherous working conditions for the mainly migrant workforce constructing Qatar's World Cup stadiums.