ZURICH - FIFA's corruption problems took
an astonishing twist on Wednesday when presidential candidate
Mohamed Bin Hammam was ordered to face an ethics hearing after
an insider alleged possible bribery.
Asian Football Confederation president Bin Hammam quickly
denied any wrongdoing just days before the June 1 election in
which he is challenging Sepp Blatter, the Swiss standing for a
fourth term as head of football's world governing body.
CONCACAF president Jack Warner was also placed under
investigation following the insider report which, to add to the
intrigue, was made by his own general secretary Chuck Blazer.
Bin Hammam, Warner and Blazer are all members of FIFA's
powerful executive committee and the latter pair have held their
respective positions with CONCACAF for 21 years.
FIFA said Qatar's Bin Hammam and Trinidad & Tobago's Warner
will face an ethics committee hearing in Zurich on Sunday, three
days before the governing body's presidential election, along
with two officials from the Caribbean Football Union (CFU).
Blazer - a striking figure with a bushy grey beard - made
his report followed a meeting of the CFU on May 10/11 which was
attended by Warner and Bin Hammam and which FIFA said was linked
to the presidential campaign.
"This has been a difficult and painful day for me today,"
Bin Hammam said in a statement.
"This move is little more than a tactic being used by those
who have no confidence in their own ability to emerge
successfully from the FIFA presidential election.
"Here I completely deny any allegations of wrongdoing either
intentionally or unknowingly while I was in the Caribbean.
"I am confident that there is no charge to answer and that I
will be free to stand in the FIFA presidential election on June
1 as originally planned."
The meeting referred to by FIFA was organised so Bin Hammam
could state his election case to delegates. He had been unable
to attend the CONCACAF Congress in Miami on May 3 after being
denied a visa for the United States.
Bin Hammam has used the campaign to call for reform at FIFA,
which has been mired in claims of corruption surrounding last
year's vote to choose hosts for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.
Warner, seen as a FIFA powerbroker but also one of its most
controversial members, told Britain's Daily Telegraph newspaper
that he was not aware of any wrongdoing on his part.
FIFA's statement read: "Chuck Blazer reported to FIFA
secretary general Jerome Valcke possible violations of the FIFA
code of ethics allegedly committed by officials."
"In view of the facts alleged in this report, which include
bribery allegations, Jerome Valcke requested the FIFA Ethics
Committee to open ethics proceedings."
CONCACAF, the North and Central America and Caribbean
Confederation, holds 35 of the 208 votes at the FIFA Congress
which will choose the president.
Warner has always been regarded as a staunch Blatter
supporter but said his confederation had not yet chosen who it
would back this time.
The 68-year-old has been in trouble before.
In December 2006, FIFA expressed disapproval with him over a
scandal involving the resale of World Cup tickets by son Daryan
through Warner's former travel company.
No further action was taken after FIFA's disciplinary
committee said there was "no concrete evidence" Warner had known
about the sales.
Warner was also criticised by national team players in his
native Trinidad and Tobago over his involvement in negotiating
the bonuses awarded to members of the 2006 World Cup squad.
In 2008, football officials from Dominica threatened to take
Warner to FIFA's ethics committee after he visited the tiny
Caribbean island and recommended the removal of the Dominica
Football Association's (DFA's) executive committee.
The DFA said Warner had made a "unilateral decision" that
was "unquestionably illegal." FIFA, however, said Warner had
been acting with the organisation's full backing and as part of
a long investigation into the state of the DFA.
FIFA has been dogged by corruption allegations since the
campaign for the 2018 and 2022 World Cup hosting rights, won by
Russia and Qatar respectively.
Earlier this month, a British parliamentary inquiry into why
England failed to secure the 2018 finals was told by member of
parliament Damian Collins there was evidence from Britain's
Sunday Times that executive committee members Issa Hayatou of
Cameroon and Jacques Anouma of the Ivory Coast were paid by
Qatar have categorically denied the allegations as have
Hayatou and Anouma.
Wednesday's announcement overshadowed the news that a
whistleblower at the centre of newspaper allegations over the
2022 World Cup did not appear for an interview at FIFA.
FIFA said the person declined the interview based on advice
for their lawyer.
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