Mohamed Bin Hammam is accused by FIFA, soccer’s governing body, of offering $40,000 to Caribbean soccer officials as part of his pitch to become president of the body, two people familiar with the situation said.
Bin Hammam, the head of soccer in Asia, is alleged to have offered about $2 million in cash to delegates at a meeting in Trinidad as funds for “football development,” said the people, who asked for anonymity because they weren’t authorized to comment publicly on the case.
“I completely deny any allegations of wrongdoing either intentionally or unknowingly while I was in the Caribbean,” Bin Hammam, a 62-year-old Qatari, said in a statement yesterday.
FIFA opened ethics proceedings against Bin Hammam and Jack Warner, the head of soccer in North and Central America, along with two officials of the Caribbean Football Union, about “possible violations of the FIFA code of ethics,” including allegations of bribery, it said in a statement yesterday.
The four must give a response by tomorrow. A disciplinary hearing will follow on May 29, three days before the June 1 presidential contest between Bin Hammam and incumbent Sepp Blatter of Switzerland. Warner also denies wrongdoing.
Bin Hammam said on his website that the allegations about his meeting with Caribbean officials were “little more than a tactic being used by those who have no confidence in their own ability to emerge successfully from the FIFA presidential election.”
Blatter denied he had anything to do with the allegations, saying he got no pleasure from seeing “men who stood by my side for some two decades suffer through public humiliation without having been convicted of any wrongdoing.”
Suggestions that he “masterminded” the current scandal are “ludicrous and completely reprehensible,” Blatter said a column on the Inside World Football website.
In an e-mailed statement today, Bin Hammam said he’s asked for Blatter to be included in the probe because -- as part of the evidence provided to FIFA -- there were statements according to which the FIFA president “was informed of, and did not oppose” the alleged payments.
“The timing of the accusations so close to the election of FIFA president on June 1, 2011, suggests that they are part of a plan to damage Mr. Bin Hammam and force him to withdraw as a candidate for the FIFA presidency,” he said in the statement.
Blatter’s U.K.-based communications adviser, Brian Alexander, declined to comment.
Evidence to FIFA
Colin Klass, the president of Guyana’s soccer federation, said he attended the meeting in Trinidad with Bin Hammam and didn’t recall anything “improper” taking place.
“Maybe they put something in our drinks to make us forget because I’m racking my brains but I don’t see anything improper,” Klass said in a telephone interview. He is also vice president of the Caribbean Football Union.
The evidence presented to FIFA includes photographs of the money, e-mails, text messages and signed affidavits from officials that corroborate the allegations, one of the people said, adding that the inquiry started May 15.
John Collins, a partner at Chicago law firm Collins & Collins, said in a telephone interview yesterday that he compiled the file after a complaint by U.S.-based FIFA board member Chuck Blazer and submitted it to FIFA’s ethics board.
Collins, a former U.S. prosecutor, is the outside general counsel for the Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football, or Concacaf, the governing body in the region.
Blazer, Concacaf’s general secretary, didn’t respond to telephone messages or e-mails seeking comment. Concacaf spokesman Steve Torres didn’t return a voicemail seeking comment.
The case is the latest corruption scandal to hit FIFA, a not-for-profit organization that banks $1 billion in revenue annually.
Former English Football Association Chairman David Triesman told a U.K. parliamentary committee this month that Warner and three other members of the 22-man panel voting on the hosts for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups asked for favors.
Warner and the others deny that charge and FIFA asked the English F.A. to supply evidence to back up the allegations.