Qatar 2022: Fifa investigation into World Cup vote 'ignoring the new evidence', critics claim

 

Fifa was accused on Monday night of conducting a selective investigation into allegations of widespread corruption surrounding Qatar’s successful bid to stage the 2022 World Cup – after it emerged that the official inquiry will be completed within days.

Michael Garcia, the former US attorney appointed to head the semi-independent investigatory chamber of Fifa’s ethics committee, said he would finish his report by Monday, submitting it to Fifa around six weeks later.

The Sunday Times, which published a swathe of allegation based on millions of Fifa documents over the weekend, claimed Mr Garcia’s team was ignoring the new evidence. It is possible, however, that Mr Garcia had already obtained much of the information.

Heidi Blake, one of the journalists involved in the Sunday Times investigation, tweeted: “They hadn’t even read our articles, let alone asked to see #FifaFiles. Now inquiry cut short to exclude them.”

In a further twist to the 2022 World Cup bid scandal, it emerged that the investigation overseen by Mr Garcia has questioned members of the defeated Australian bid team over its spending.

Australia bid alongside Qatar, the US, South Korea and Japan for the right to host the 2022 finals, One of the witnesses reportedly flown to New York to meet Mr Garcia, Bonita Mersiades, a former corporate affairs manager for Football Federation Australia (FFA), told Australian media there were “parallels” between how the Australian bid spent some of its money and the allegations levelled against Mohamed Bin Hammam, Qatar’s former vice-president of Fifa.

Mr Garcia released a statement on Monday following a long-scheduled meeting with Qatari 2022 officials in Oman. It said: “After months of interviewing witnesses and gathering materials, we intend to complete that phase of our investigation by 9 June 9 2014, and to submit a report to the adjudicatory chamber approximately six weeks thereafter.

Read more: Blatter must be booted out of Fifa

“The report will consider all evidence potentially related to the bidding process, including evidence collected from prior investigations.”

The latest allegations surround Bin Hammam and claims he made payments of some £3m in cash and gifts to officials around the world to smooth the path for his country’s bid. Bin Hammam, banned from football in 2011 over claims he bribed officials to support his campaign to become Fifa president, was not part of the bid team and Qatari officials have denied all allegations of impropriety.

The vote of Fifa’s executive committee to decide the hosts of the 2018 and 2022 finals was taken at the same time and was surrounded by a swirl of corruption allegations. That Mr Garcia’s investigation is looking beyond Qatar comes as little surprise to those involved with the bidding process from its outset. “We’ve been heavily involved in this now for many months in terms of the investigation that Mr Garcia is carrying out,” said David Gallop, chief executive of the FFA.

Were Fifa’s ethics committee to recommend a  a new vote – an outcome that still remains unlikely despite calls for one from the likes of Greg Dyke, chairman of the FA – then Australia would have been one of the favourites given that the US, another bidder, prefers to focus on securing the 2026 finals.

Those prospects would be damaged if the allegations made by Ms Mersiades were substantiated. Ms Mersiades told the Melbourne Age: “The revelations about the way Bin Hammam used hospitality, gifts, perks, and upgrades of stadiums to win bid support has parallels with the manner in which Australia used some of its funds during its bidding campaign.”

The Australian bid has previously been linked with payments to Jack Warner, the Trinidadian who was a powerful figure on Fifa’s executive committee until he was forced out over separate corruption allegations, and Reynald Temarii, another former Fifa executive whose name consistently crops up in connection with allegations of corruption surrounding the 2022 bids.

Fifa have so far refused to comment on the reports, referring all inquiries to Mr Garcia’s office.

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