Qatar World Cup 2022: Gifts and free trips for Fifa officials come under scrutiny as bid process investigation nears conclusion

Fifa investigator Michael Garcia has said he will conclude his probe into alleged corruption by 9 June

Reports of cash payments, luxury gifts and all-expenses-paid trips for Fifa officials are coming under increasing scrutiny in the wake of a World Cup bid alleged corruption scandal that threatens to put Qatar’s place as 2022 tournament hosts in question.

The results of an investigation by the consultants PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) were published online last night by the Sunday Times, and according to the newspaper highlighted payments to a string of senior officials, including Fifa president Sepp Blatter.

The report also draws attention to what it says is a series of payments from the Asian Football Confederation, purportedly on behalf of its then-president Mohamed bin Hammam – the man accused by the Sunday Times of paying £3 million in bribes to secure Qatar the 2022 World Cup.

As well as highlighting a $1 billion (£600 million) rights deal awarded by the confederation allegedly without the contract going to tender.

According to The Times, the report states: “However, no direct evidence has been identified to confirm a link between the payments…and the awarding of the [rights agreement].”

The PwC report also apparently detailed expenditure on shirts worth $1,983 said to have been made to Mr Blatter, and suits worth $4,950 to Issa Hayatou, the president of the Confederation of African Football (CAF).

There was no suggestion that the payments were related to the recent controversy over the 2022 World Cup bid. Mr Blatter has denied Fifa is a corrupt organisation, and said as recently as last month that the decision to host the 2022 tournament in Qatar was a “mistake”, reinforcing the widely-held view that he did not vote for the country in 2010.

In the wake of the Sunday Times allegations, CAF issued a statement on behalf of Mr Hayatou which branded claims he had received “valuable gifts” and been “greatly pampered” as “fanciful”. It said the president had “never received any money from Mr Bin Hammam, the Emir of Qatar or any member of the Qatar 2022 bid committee”.

Read more: Fifa investigation into World Cup vote 'ignoring the new evidence', critics claim
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Meanwhile, Fifa’s chief investigator Michael Garcia was reportedly looking into claims that some of the officials involved in awarding the 2022 World Cup to Qatar were given free, all-expenses-paid trips to the country, according to the Telegraph.

The newspaper said several executive members for Fifa – who until very recent reforms were responsible for choosing the tournament hosts, joined the trip complete with pre-loaded credit cards shortly before the crucial vote was held in 2010.

Mr Garcia, a senior partner at a law firm in New York and who worked as a counter-terrorism prosecutor for the US President George W Bush.

He has been investigating possible irregularities around the bidding process for the 2018 tournament, awarded to Russia, and the 2022 World Cup for the past two years.

In a statement, Mr Garcia said the probe will consider “all evidence potentially related to the bidding process”, and that he expected to conclude his investigation by 9 June – just days before the start of this year’s tournament in Brazil.

A report of his findings will not be submitted to Fifa’s adjudicatory chamber until later in July, however.

The Qatar bid team said it “vehemently denies all allegations of wrong-doing” in the wake of recent reports, and that it was cooperating fully with Mr Garcia’s investigation.

“The Qatar 2022 Bid Committee always upheld the highest standard of ethics and integrity in its successful bid to host the 2022 FIFA World,” a statement read.

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