FIFA today faced calls to abandon next week’s presidential election after two of football’s most powerful figures were accused of handing over up to $40,000 (€28,000) in bribes to officials.
FIFA presidential candidate Mohamed Bin Hammam and vice-president Jack Warner have both been charged with bribery in the most serious corruption crisis to hit the world governing body.
The pair will face FIFA’s ethics committee on Sunday where they will face long bans if the allegations – made by fellow executive committee member Chuck Blazer - are proved. Both have denied any wrongdoing.
Sepp Blatter and Bin Hammam were due to stand in the presidential election on Wednesday and the Qatari has declared the charge is a tactic by Blatter in an attempt to boost his chances.
Damian Collins, the MP who named two other FIFA members in Parliament as allegedly receiving bribes from Qatar’s 2022 World Cup bid, said FIFA should now abandon the election.
Collins told Press Association Sport: “FIFA need to have a proper independent investigation and the timetable does not allow this to happen before next week.
“If Bin Hammam is suspended it would be unacceptable for the election to simply become a shoo-in for Sepp Blatter. There must be a new election with new candidates allowed to come forward.”
Blazer, an American who is the general secretary of the CONCACAF federation of which Warner is president, has alleged that the violations of FIFA’s code of ethics during a meeting organised by Bin Hammam and Warner for Caribbean Football Union (CFU) associations in Trinidad two weeks ago.
Two CFU officials, Debbie Minguell and Jason Sylvester, have also been charged. Minguell is assistant to the CFU’s general secretary and Sylvester is the organisation’s events co-ordinator.
It is understood that details of the allegations contained in a file of evidence has been put together by a Chicago-based lawyers Collins and Collins and sent to FIFA.
The file includes sworn affidavits by several members of the CFU who claim they were offered thousands of dollars in cash for “development projects” at the meeting, which Bin Hammam had been invited to in order to speak about his campaign for FIFA president.
Some of the bundles of cash were accepted, the file says, but some of those who refused to take any money approached Blazer. Some of the evidence in the file includes photographs.
Bin Hammam insisted he was confident he would be absolved of all charges.
He said in a statement: “This has been a difficult and painful day for me today. But, if there is even the slightest justice in the world, these allegations will vanish in the wind. 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.
“I completely deny any allegations of wrongdoing either intentionally or unknowingly while I was in the Caribbean.”
Warner also made reference to Wednesday’s presidential election.
He said: “I am not aware of any wrongdoing on my part and I shall listen to allegations made and respond accordingly.
“It is interesting to note the timing of these allegations and the hearing scheduled days before the FIFA presidential elections.”