Qatar and Russia could be stripped of World Cup - if evidence of bribery is found, says senior Fifa official

Fifa are engulfed in allegations of corruption and bribery relating to the upcoming tournaments and past World Cups

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The Independent Football

Russia and Qatar could be stripped of the right to host the World Cup if evidence of bribery in the bidding process emerges, the chairman of Fifa’s audit and compliance committee has said.

Domenico Scala said in an interview with the Swiss newspaper SonntagsZeitung: “If evidence should emerge that the awards to Qatar and Russia only came about thanks to bought votes, then the awards could be invalidated.”

But Mr Scala said that such evidence “has yet to be brought forth” and Russia  and Qatar have previously denied any wrongdoing in the award of the 2018 and 2022 tournaments. They were not included in the charges announced by the FBI last week against Fifa officials.

The Foreign Secretary, Philip Hammond, said that he supported Qatar hosting the 2022 tournament but that Britain would work with another country if Fifa reopened the bidding process. However, he ruled out any British bid to host the 2022 competition if Qatar were stripped of hosting rights.

“We would offer our support to any country that has been chosen to host the World Cup,” he told BBC World Service radio, saying the final decision would be for Fifa to make.

 

The last fortnight has seen football’s governing body embroiled in a series of scandals, culminating in the shock resignation of its president, Sepp Blatter, on 2 June. The move came just days after he had been re-elected for a fifth term.

At the end of last month, seven Fifa officials were arrested in dawn raids at a hotel in Zurich and charged by US authorities over allegations of racketeering, wire fraud and money-laundering conspiracies spanning 24 years. Two other Fifa officials and five corporate executives were also charged.

Mr Blatter has not faced any charges but according to The Sunday Times the FBI is now investigating whether he had knowledge of a $10m (£6.5m) payment for South Africa to host the World Cup in 2010. It is also said to be investigating whether he had any role in discussions with South African officials during which the payment was agreed. Mr Blatter has denied any wrongdoing.

The American whistleblower and former Fifa executive committee member Chuck Blazer said he and others took bribes totalling $10m for South Africa to host the 2010 World Cup and an undisclosed sum for Morocco’s unsuccessful bid to host the 1998 tournament. His allegations are sworn testimony as part of a plea bargain published by the US Department of Justice.

Allegations of how the $10m was sent from Fifa to accounts controlled by the former vice-president Jack Warner were reported by the BBC. The funds, sent on behalf of South Africa, were apparently for use on its Caribbean diaspora legacy programme.

But the broadcaster has seen documents which allege he used the payment for cash withdrawals, personal loans and to launder money. The BBC claimed that three wire transfers in 2008 took money from Fifa accounts into accounts for the Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football which were controlled by Jack Warner.

Mr Warner, 72, has been indicted by the FBI for  corruption but denies all claims of wrongdoing. Fifa says it is co-operating  with the investigation and South Africa’s Football Association has vehemently denied any wrongdoing.

Fifa did not respond to The Independent’s requests  for comment.

A FIFA spokeswoman said: “FIFA is cooperating with investigations that it very much hopes will shed light on the true facts and looks forward to the clarity that these investigations are intended to bring.”

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