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Offline mayya

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Secret deals turn heat on World Cup
« on: June 09, 2014, 19:31:01 PM »

Secret deals turn heat on World Cup

Qatari fixer’s $1.7m for key Asian votes and Miliband demands rerun of 2022 bid

THE secrets of how Qatar’s top football chief exploited his nation’s vast sovereign wealth to help win crucial votes for its World Cup bid are revealed in explosive documents leaked to The Sunday Times. Fresh disclosures from the Fifa files show how Mohamed bin Hammam, the disgraced Fifa vice-president, pulled strings at the top of government and with the country’s royal family to arrange meetings and favours for key voters in the months leading up to the World Cup ballot.

The Qatar 2022 committee has maintained it has no links to Bin Hammam since this newspaper last week exposed the slush funds he used to make secret payments of more than $5m in his campaign to seal support for the tiny country’s World Cup dream. But fresh disclosures from the documents today threaten to blow a hole in its claims that he was an “entirely separate” individual with “no official or unofficial role in the bid”. Pressure on world football’s governing body, Fifa, to take action over this newspaper’s evidence intensified last night when the first of its big sponsors, the Japanese electronics giant Sony, broke ranks and called for the damning disclosures to be “investigated appropriately”.


Ed Miliband, the Labour leader, piled on further pressure, telling The Sunday Times there would be an “overwhelming case for the bidding process to be reopened immediately” if the “startling” evidence in the Fifa files was proven. The cache of hundreds of millions of documents leaked from the heart of world football today reveals that Bin Hammam:

■ Brokered government-level talks for the Thai member of Fifa’s executive committee (Exco) to push a gas deal that was potentially worth tens of millions of dollars to Thailand
■ Was invited to visit Vladimir Putin to discuss “bilateral relations” in sport between Qatar and Russia a month before their landslide victories in the 2018 and 2022 votes
■ Invited the former Exco member Franz Beckenbauer to Doha with bosses from an oil and gas shipping firm, which was employing him as a consultant, to discuss Qatari investments in the maritime sector
■ Fixed discreet meetings with the Qatari royal family for at least seven key Exco members, including the Fifa president, Sepp Blatter
■ Shored up his own seat on Exco by using secret slush funds to make payments totalling $1.7m to football officials across Asia.

The contents of the Fifa files have reverberated around the globe since The Sunday Times revealed last week Bin Hammam’s secret campaign to buy up support for the Qatar World Cup bid.

Blatter has maintained a public silence on the allegations since the story broke, despite mounting pressure to strip Qatar of the 2022 World Cup and order a rerun of the vote. He is also facing growing calls for his own resignation.

Michael Garcia, Fifa’s in-house investigator, further enraged critics last week by announcing that he would cut short his investigation into corruption in the World Cup bidding process ahead of Fifa’s congress in Sao Paolo on Tuesday without reviewing the fresh evidence obtained by The Sunday Times.

 Miliband joined the attack on Garcia last week, saying: “Few people will have much confidence in the investigation being conducted by Fifa unless it takes full account of the evidence uncovered by The Sunday Times.”

He said the Fifa files contained “startling evidence that the decision to make Qatar the host for the World Cup in 2022 may have been corrupted”.

The new revelations from the files threaten to throw Fifa’s annual congress into disarray before the first match in the 2014 World Cup on Thursday.

Leading Exco members are under intense scrutiny over their secret dealings with Bin Hammam as they gather before the kick-off. The documents shed new light on how a tiny desert state with virtually no football infrastructure and sweltering summer temperatures of up to 50C — but an immense treasure chest financed by its vast oil and gas reserves — walked off with the rights to host the world’s biggest sporting tournament.

Leaked emails show that Bin Hammam brokered two secret meetings with Qatari royals to discuss a major gas deal with a senior aide to Worawi Makudi, the serving Thai Exco member, in the critical final months before the ballot. Joe Sim, a businessman and Makudi’s chief adviser at the Thai football association, met Qatar’s deputy prime minister and the chief executive of Qatargas, the state gas company, in August and September 2010 to discuss a sale of Qatar’s liquefied natural gas reserves.
Documents show that the meetings were aimed at “promoting the bilateral co-operations in soccer developments and activities between the Qatari FA and Thai FA”. The exact nature of the deal on the table is unclear, but it came as Thailand sought to save tens of millions of pounds by renegotiating an arrangement with Qatar to purchase 1m tons of liquefied natural gas each year at a fixed price that it considered too high. When confronted by this newspaper on Friday, Makudi denied that he had received a personal “concession” from his involvement in the gas deal but declined to elaborate.

The documents also reveal for the first time the high-level secret dealings between Qatar and Russia shortly before they swept to victory in the races for 2022 and 2018 — with Russia demolishing England’s 2018 in the process. Emails show that Russia invited Bin Hammam to a summit to discuss “bilateral relations” in sport between their two countries on October 30, 2010, a month before the vote on the bids.
Two days later, Qatar’s ruling emir also flew to Moscow for talks about joint gas production deals between the two countries. The leaked correspondence shows that Vitaly Mutko, Russia’s Exco member and 2018 bid chairman, hailed Bin Hammam’s meeting with Putin as “a chance to further promote bilateral relations between our nations in the areas of sport”.

Platini, the former French football star who is now president of the European football federation (Uefa), confirmed last week that Bin Hammam had arranged for the Qatar bid committee to meet him in Switzerland.
Bin Hammam was not present at their meeting and did not lobby him, he said, but Platini’s revelation puts in question Qatar’s claim that its football boss had nothing to do with the World Cup bid.
Flight itineraries, emails and hotel bookings also reveal that, after the bid was won, Franz Beckenbauer, the former German star who had also been a member of Exco, travelled to Doha accompanied by Erck Rickmers, owner of the German shipping firm ER Capital Holding.
The company had hired Beckenbauer as a consultant after he stood down from his Fifa Exco seat in April 2011. The two men were accompanied by Beckenbauer’s agent, Marcus Hoefl, and three other executives from the shipping company which owns a fleet that transports oil and gas on the high seas.
A spokesman for the firm confirmed last week that they were there to discuss Qatari investments in the maritime sector, but said no contract was signed as a result of the meetings with senior Qatari officials, which Bin Hammam did not attend. Beckenbauer declined to comment.
The documents lay bare the extent to which Bin Hammam used his connections to usher key football figures into the inner sanctum of Qatari society for meetings with the emir, the crown prince and other senior royals as part of the campaign to secure support for the bid.

The evidence that Bin Hammam was able to go straight to the top in his campaign to seal support for the 2022 bid undermines Qatar’s claim that the disgraced football official had no role in its campaign.
The files show that Bin Hammam was fixing the meetings for members of Qatar’s ruling family with football’s most powerful men at the same time as using a network of secret slush funds to buy up a groundswell of support among the bosses of national football associations.
This week’s Fifa files reveal details of the $1.7m he paid from the funds, controlled by his private company Kemco, often into the bank accounts of officials whose support he was seeking across Asia.
The glut of Asian payments came as Bin Hammam was campaigning for both the Qatar World Cup bid and for his own re-election to the post of president of the Asian Football Confederation.

The Qatar bid committee denies all wrongdoing.