FIFA evidence against bin Hammam mounts

Mohamed bin Hammam.
AP Photo/Shirley Bahadur
AP Photo/Shirley Bahadur

LONDON (AP) — FIFA’s investigators have gathered further evidence of bribery by suspended executive Mohamed bin Hammam during his campaign to become president of world football’s governing body, a person familiar with the case said Wednesday.

The corruption report — compiled by former FBI agents — was sent to bin Hammam last week, and FIFA has summoned the suspended head of Asian football to a full ethics committee hearing on July 22.

Bin Hammam and two Caribbean football officials are accused of involvement in a plot to bribe executives in the Caribbean ahead of the Qatari’s challenge to topple FIFA President Sepp Blatter.

Nine of the 24 Caribbean Football Union members who attended a meeting in Trinidad in May have now admitted to ex-FBI director Louis Freeh that they were offered or accepted $40,000 payments from bin Hammam, a person familiar with the case told The Associated Press. He spoke on condition of anonymity as it is a confidential report.

An initial report last month by FIFA’s ethics committee concluded there was “compelling” evidence that bin Hammam and then-CONCACAF President Jack Warner conspired to bribe voters.

Allegations against Warner were dropped when he resigned from football last month, but Freeh’s report — the result of interviews last month — appears to uncover fresh evidence against the Trinidad native, who is now exempt from any possible sanctions.

CFU members told Freeh’s team that the federation wasn’t financially able to distribute any money itself and that it previously only wire-transferred funds.

The CFU’s financial report, which was presented at the start of the year, showed that the organization had debts of $242,000 and owed $376,000 to Warner from a loan deal.

Bin Hammam, who faces a life ban from football if found guilty, declined to disclose bank account records and other financial details to Freeh’s investigation team, the person said.

Two other FIFA executive committee members — Manilal Fernando of Sri Lanka and Worawi Makudi of Thailand — have admitted to attending the May 10-11 meeting, the person said.

But there is no evidence they were paid by bin Hammam or knew of the payments to CFU members during the campaign visit.

Four CFU nations have already given evidence to support the initial corruption claims gathered by American FIFA executive committee member Chuck Blazer. They are the Bahamas, Bermuda, Cayman Islands and the Turks & Caicos Islands.

Puerto Rico, Surinam, Grenada, Aruba and Curacao have cooperated with the investigation and backed up the allegations since the initial ethics hearing met on May 29.

Cuba was the only CFU member of the 25 that did not have a representative at the Trinidad meeting attended by bin Hammam.

CFU officials Debbie Minguell and Jason Sylvester have also been accused of being involved in the attempt to bribe voters and are currently suspended.

Details of Freeh’s report emerged after FIFA announced Wednesday that its ethics panel, chaired by Namibian judge Petrus Damaseb, will hear all three cases on July 22 and begin its deliberations the next day.

“The three officials have received the report on the investigations conducted by the ethics committee since May 29 and have been invited to present their position in writing prior to the meeting,” FIFA said in a statement.

“The parties, as well as the ethics committee, also have the opportunity to call on potential witnesses.

FIFA has not released details of Freeh’s report or the full findings of the May 29 meeting of the ethics committee, which were obtained by The AP last month.

That initial panel found “comprehensive, convincing and overwhelming evidence” that Warner arranged the meeting specifically to enable corruption. It was “impossible” to think Warner was unaware of the payments and their intention to influence how CFU members voted.

Bin Hammam allegedly offered cash “at least indirectly and under the pledge of secrecy” intended to influence them to back him against Blatter, the report said.

The scandal emerged one week before the FIFA election on June 1, and bin Hammam, Warner and the CFU staffers were then provisionally suspended by the ethics panel pending a full inquiry. All have denied wrongdoing.

Bin Hammam withdrew his candidacy three days before the poll, leaving Blatter clear to be elected unopposed at the FIFA congress for a fourth four-year term as the most powerful man in world football.

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