Disgraced FIFA vice president and head of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Mohammed Bin Hammam is setting himself up for a second humiliating defeat in less than a week by refusing to resign his posts.
Six days after the world soccer body’s ethics committee banned Mr. Bin Hammam for life from involvement in soccer on charges of bribery, the Qatari national is refusing to step down as head of the AFC days before the organization’s executive committee meets on Friday in the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur to discuss the issue.
In response, Japan Football Association president Junji Ogura has called for Mr. Bin Hammam’s ousting. Mr. Bin Hammam, a 62-year old Qatari national, “has been banned for life so I think an election needs to be held,’’ The Associated Press quoted Mr. Ogura as saying.
FIFA’s ethics committee found Mr. Bin Hammam last week guilty of bribing officials of the Caribbean Football Union (CFU) to secure their support for his failed campaign for the FIFA presidency. Mr. Bin Hammam withdrew his candidacy in late May hours before he was suspended pending an investigation. The outcome of that investigation led to last weekend’s ban.
Mr. Bin Hammam, who has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing, has vowed to appeal the ban and has advised AFC members in a letter that he will remain in office until the appeal process, which could take years, has run its course.
FIFA seemingly cast doubt on Mr. Bin Hammam’s assertions that he is innocent by rejecting his call for the ethics committee to publish the evidence against him. “Mr Bin Hammam is in full possession of all evidence on his case,” FIFA said suggesting between the lines that Mr. Bin Hammam is in a position to do so himself if he wanted to.
The report of the FIFA investigation that led to Mr. Bin Hammam’s banning failed to find a smoking gun for the allegations against him, but was viewed by the ethics committee as compelling enough to justify banning his banning.
“It appears rather compelling to consider that the actions of Mr. Bin Hammam constitute prima facie an act of bribery, or at least an attempt to commit bribery,” the 17-page report said.
The banning of Mr. Bin Hammam has sparked a flurry of official and unofficial investigations related to the Qatari’s alleged bribery as well as to the controversial awarding of the 2022 World Cup to his native Qatar.
The FIFA investigations focus on three executive committee members who accompanied Mr. Bin Hammam to the CFU meeting in May in Trinidad where the bribery is said to have occurred. The three – Hany Abou Rida of Egypt, Vernon Manilal Fernando of Sri Lanka and Worawi Makudi of Thailand – have already received summons from the committee. All three have denied any knowledge of bribery at the Trinidad meeting.
FIFA moreover has given CFU’s member associations 48 hours to “provide and report all relevant information in their possession” about the meeting in Trinidad’s Port of Spain on May 10 and 11.
FIFA said in an email to Reuters news agency that “truthful and complete reporting will be considered in mitigation by the ethics committee when deciding on potential sanctions. Any person who has relevant information but does not come forward during this 48-hour period will be subject to the full range of sanctions.”
CFU officials Debbie Minguell and Jason Sylvester were last weekend banned alongside Mr. Bin Hammam for a period of one year for their role in Mr. Bin Hammam’s bribery. FIFA vice president and head of North and Central American and Caribbean soccer Jack Warner escaped punishment by last month resigning from his posts – an option Mr. Bin Hammam has rejected.
Various of CFU’s 30 member associations, including the Bahamas, Puerto Rico and Suriname, said they were offered $40,000 each described as reimbursement of expenses for attending the meeting in Trinidad in exchange for their support of Mr. Bin Hammam’s presidential ambitions.
The allegations against Mr. Bin Hammam, who was closely associated with Qatar’s World Cup bid, have much to FIFA’s chagrin, sparked calls for a widening of the investigation to include Mr. Bin Hammam’s role in the Gulf state’s campaign as well as various private investigations by parties opposed to it hosting the world’s largest sports event.
FIFA president Sepp Blatter has so far consistently resisted calls for an investigation of Qatar. Mr. Blatter’s resistance was bolstered earlier this month when a whistle blower who had made key charges of Qatar’s alleged bribery of executive committee members said she had fabricated them to get back at the country’s bid committee because it had removed her from her job.
(James M. Dorsey, formerly of The Wall Street Journal, is a senior fellow at the Nanyang Technological University’s S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies and the author of the blog, The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer. He can be reached via email at: firstname.lastname@example.org)