Organizers of the 2022 World Cup distanced themselves Tuesday from allegations of corruption involving two former high-ranking FIFA officials that raised new questions about Qatar’s winning bid for the tournament.
The Daily Telegraph newspaper in Britain alleged Tuesday it has evidence that former FIFA vice president Jack Warner of Trinidad and Tobago and his family were paid almost $2 million from a company controlled by Mohamed Bin Hammam, a Qatari who used to be an executive committee member of world soccer’s governing body.
According to documents seen by the newspaper, a note from one of Warner’s companies, Jamad, to Bin Hammam’s firm, Kemco, requested $1.2 million for work carried out between 2005 and 2010. The note was dated Dec. 15, 2010, two weeks after Qatar was awarded the World Cup. The payment was made in 2011.
Payments totaling $750,000 were paid to Warner’s sons and a further $400,000 to one of his employees, the Telegraph alleged.
The transactions were processed via a bank in New York and have come to the attention of the FBI, which the newspaper alleged is investigating Warner and his links to the Qatar bid.
Qatari organizers said Tuesday the bid “strictly adhered to FIFA’s bidding regulations in compliance with their code of ethics.”
“The Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy and the individuals involved in the 2022 Bid Committee are unaware of any allegations surrounding business dealings between private individuals,” the statement said.
FIFA said it had no comment on the allegations.
“In principle, any evidence of potential wrongdoing can be submitted to the investigatory chamber of the independent ethics committee of FIFA for further investigation,” it said in a statement.
Warner said a “witch hunt” was being waged against Qatar.
“I have no interest in joining in the foolishness that is now passing as news on Qatar and Jack Warner,” he said in a statement to Britain’s Press Association.
The latest allegations will bring fresh scrutiny on the 2010 vote, which currently is under investigation by FIFA’s independent ethics prosecutor, and has put Warner and Bin Hammam – two of the most controversial figures in FIFA’s recent history – back in the spotlight.
Warner and Bin Hammam are no longer FIFA committee members. They were caught up in a corruption scandal surrounding Bin Hammam’s failed campaign for the FIFA presidency in 2011.
Qatar defeated bids from the United States, Japan, South Korea and Australia to host the World Cup, allowing FIFA to take the 2022 tournament to a new country.
The decision has been marred by persistent allegations that the voting process was flawed as well as concerns over the sweltering summer heat in the tiny Gulf nation, where temperatures can reach 120 degrees. FIFA is expected to move the tournament from its traditional June-July period to the winter months, with the exact dates yet to be finalized.
Concerns have also been raised about the working conditions, poor living standards and non-payment of wages for people helping to build the stadiums for the World Cup.
As then-president of CONCACAF, the regional governing body for North and Central America and the Caribbean, Warner would have been expected to lead efforts within FIFA’s ruling board to help the U.S. bid.
Qatar defeated the American bid 14-8 in the final round of secret balloting by 22 FIFA board members. Two members of the then 24-man board were suspended after being implicated in a cash-for-votes sting by the British newspaper The Sunday Times.
Warner resigned from soccer duties, including his 28-year membership of FIFA’s committee, in June 2011 to avoid investigation in a bribery scandal linked to Bin Hammam’s campaign for FIFA president. The Qatari official launched his challenge against FIFA President Sepp Blatter three months after helping his country secure the World Cup.
Bin Hammam withdrew his presidential candidacy just days before the vote after being suspended by FIFA’s ethics committee. He was implicated in offering Caribbean soccer federations $40,000 each in cash at a May 2011 campaign meeting organized by Warner in Trinidad.
The World Cup bid contests for the 2018 and 2022 tournaments are being investigated by Michael Garcia, a former U.S. Attorney who was appointed as FIFA’s independent ethics prosecutor in July 2012. Garcia and his investigation team have been conducting interviews worldwide with officials from the 2018 and 2022 bid nations and FIFA executive committee members. Russia is to host the 2018 World Cup.
Garcia is expected to submit a report this year to FIFA’s independent ethics judge, Joachim Eckert, who can recommend possible sanctions.
Blatter has said the World Cup cannot be taken away from Qatar or Russia.
AP Sports Writer Graham Dunbar in Zurich contributed to this report.