Fifa committee may ban Bin Hammam for life

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The Independent Online

Mohamed bin Hammam will face Fifa's Ethics Committee in Zurich today with the very real prospect of a life ban from the sport being imposed come tomorrow evening when the two-day hearing is concluded.

According to a widely leaked report compiled for the committee by a former head of the FBI, there is "compelling circumstantial evidence" that Bin Hammam did attempt to bribe members of the Caribbean Football Union during his aborted campaign to challenge Sepp Blatter for the Fifa presidency. Bin Hammam was suspended by Fifa on 29 May, days before the election which Blatter was to win unchallenged.

The Qatari, who will attend the hearing and is able to call witnesses in his defence, has steadfastly maintained his innocence throughout and claimed that the charges against him are "politically motivated".

Bin Hammam is accused of offering $40,000 (£24,500) in cash to 25 delegates from Caribbean associations at a hotel in Trinidad in May. According to witnesses, Jack Warner, like Bin Hammam then a member of Fifa's Executive Committee, instructed attendees that their gifts could be collected from the boardroom. There it is alleged two CFU officials, Debbie Minguell and Jason Sylvester, handed over brown envelopes containing cash. The report compiled by Freeh Group International, a detective agency owned by Louis Freeh, heard from at least seven associations that they were offered cash – 12 of them did not cooperate.

According to the report, leaked to the Press Association, Bin Hammam would not be interviewed for the investigation, refused to release banking records and stated that "requested telephone records do not exist".

Warner's resignation from Fifa and all football activities means that the case against him has been dropped. Warner, long a controversial and hugely influential figure in Fifa circles, was also suspended when the allegations emerged at the end of May. He promised to unleash a "tsunami" in Fifa's direction but instead dropped out of the game when details of the report began to emerge as he sought to save his political career in Trinidad.

Bin Hammam says he will vigorously contest the charges and has publicly questioned the manner in which the case has been handled and his treatment by the Ethics Committee. He has accused the process of being "biased" with an "absence of fair proceedings", yet also says that he still expects to receive a "fair hearing" today.

After today's hearings behind closed doors, the committee, chaired by the Namibia judge Petrus Damaseb, will deliberate tomorrow with a decision expected late afternoon. If found guilty of the charges, Bin Hammam is likely to be banished from the sport for life, barring him from playing any part in his country's hosting of the 2022 World Cup.

Fifa is anxious to prove it is acting decisively to rid football's governing body of the corruption charges that have dogged it. Including Blatter, 10 of the 24 members who make up the Executive Committee have faced accusations of impropriety. Blatter was cleared by the Ethics Committee prior to the election. The extraordinary outpouring of anger directed at the Football Association, and the "little devils" of the British media, for calling for the election to be postponed during last month's Congress, demonstrated the continued unwillingness of those who govern Fifa to instigate, or even recognise the urgent need for, wide-scale reform. Blatter's proposal that the likes of Henry Kissinger and Placido Domingo should make up part of a new committee to look into corruption has been a baffling response. Blatter will be in Argentina tomorrow.

When Fifa does issue bans there is also doubt over whether the sanctions are being properly enforced. Last week it was reported that two officials from the African confederation were still on CAF committees despite supposedly being in the middle of suspensions issued by the Ethics Committee.

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