Mohamed Bin Hammam was banned for life by soccer’s governing body after being found guilty of bribing voters in his attempt to defeat incumbent Sepp Blatter for the presidency of FIFA.
The decision came after a two-day hearing in Zurich that Bin Hammam didn’t attend. It follows a six-week investigation by former U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation head Louis Freeh into allegations Bin Hammam offered stacks of $40,000 to members of the Caribbean Football Union.
“Mr. Bin Hammam is hereby banned from taking part in any kind of football-related activity at national and international level, administrative, sports and any other, for a period of life,” Petrus Damaseb, deputy chairman of FIFA’s ethics committee, said at a news conference yesterday.
Bin Hammam, a 62-year-old Qatari, rejected the findings and maintained his innocence.
“We did not do anything wrong,” he told BBC Radio 5 Live’s Sportsweek program today. “We played in compliance with the rules and regulations of FIFA. I did not provide money for distribution, or for buying votes or for bribing. I paid the expenses of the congresses, the travel expenses, daily allowances.”
Bin Hammam said the decision was certain even before his case went before the ethics committee. He said he was being punished for standing against Blatter for the presidency.
‘Full of Revenge’
“Exactly, there is nothing else,” he said. “The ban for life has already been written before the investigation started. I was expecting it actually. The ban for life, that shows how much these people are angry, how much they are full of revenge.”
Earlier, Bin Hammam’s lawyer said his client would take the legal fight further.
“He will continue to fight through the legal routes that are open to him,” Eugene Gulland told reporters. “The FIFA ethics committee has apparently based its decision on so-called circumstantial evidence which, as our case has clearly demonstrated, is bogus and is founded on lies by senior FIFA officials.”
Bin Hammam’s exit follows the resignation last month of Jack Warner, a FIFA vice president, who was accused of helping Bin Hammam’s bribery effort; he denied wrongdoing. FIFA has been struggling with bribery accusations against board members and corruption allegations involving the staging rights for its $4 billion World Cup after Russia and Qatar were selected to host the 2018 and 2022 events.
Bin Hammam is the most-senior soccer official to have been expelled. He and Warner, as well as two lower ranked Caribbean officials, were initially suspended following an internal inquiry on May 29, three days before FIFA’s presidential election. Blatter was voted in for a fourth four-year term after Bin Hammam withdrew from the race before his suspension.
FIFA yesterday suspended Debbie Minguell and Jason Sylvester, the two Caribbean officials, for one year, Damaseb said. FIFA executive committee member Chuck Blazer of the U.S., who informed the ruling body of the bribery, was also warned for comments he directed at Caribbean soccer officials.
The corruption claims have hurt FIFA. Sponsors, former players and fan groups have all demanded the organization change the way it governs itself. Blatter said future World Cups would be chosen by representatives of all 208 member associations, not by the 24 senior executives who have decided up until now. He’s also promised a raft of other measures as part of a “zero tolerance” approach to wrongdoing.
“The decision was in keeping with the declared policy of the committee to show zero tolerance towards unethical behavior,” Damaseb said, adding he’ll ask FIFA for further investigations into other Caribbean soccer officials at the May meeting.