It was fascinating to read through the lengthy reporting by the investigative team at the UK Sunday Times detailing what seems like a ‘smoking gun’ in relation to the Qatar World Cup Bid, with the revelation of millions of emails to, and from, Mohamed Bin Hammam.
It is, in my opinion, vindication of Phaedra Al-Majid, the Qatari whistleblower who subsequently withdrew her allegations a few months after she made them. The circumstances of her withdrawal of those allegations are known to me, but that is a story for another time.
The Head of the Qatar Organising Committee (and their Bid), Hassan Al-Thawadi, has always claimed publicly and privately that he was not involved in corruption. That statement may be correct in and of itself, but the Sunday Times revelations show that it is becoming more and more difficult for him and other senior members of his team to continue to deny that they were not aware of what Bin Hammam was up to on behalf of the Qatar Bid.
The Sunday Times report is the first of many in the coming weeks, timed to coincide with the FIFA Congress and the World Cup as well as the first meeting between FIFA Ethics Committee head, Michael Garcia, and the Qatari World Cup team in Oman as part of Garcia’s 12 months plus investigations into the conduct of the 2018 and 2022 Bids. It is unlikely the football community will ever know what Garcia finds because FIFA President Sepp Blatter amended the FIFA Ethics Code “to ensure that evidence collected in FIFA investigations cannot be revealed”. This makes the Sunday Times scoop even more of a find.
The Sunday Times report details payments made to African officials by Bin Hammam or his close associate Najeeb Chirakal, in the form of grants for football stadiums, hospitality, personal costs and more. Key amongst them is a FIFA Executive member, Jacques Anouma from Côte d’Ivoire who, along with Amos Adamu from Nigeria, was identified – via the international consultants – as a key target for Australia in the early stages of our Bid.
The Sunday Times shows that former Caribbean football head Jack Warner had his hand out to Bin Hammam. More than $1.6 million was funnelled into Warner’s personal bank accounts by Bin Hammam or those acting on his behalf.
Warner was also a favoured recipient of Australian taxpayers-funded largesse. As far as we’re aware, he managed to receive only $500,000 in personal cash from the Australian Bid for the upgrade of a football stadium. The stadium was owned personally by him and the money ended up in a personal account. Gifts and other special support for Warner, Trinidad and Tobago FA and the Caribbean Confederation have also been previously documented.
The Sunday Times also confirms that Bin Hammam convinced the suspended President of the Oceania Confederation, Reynald Temarii, to appeal his suspension in November 2010 – about one month out from the vote – thus reducing Australia’s confirmed support by one, to one, vote. It was widely known amongst other Bid teams that Temarii’s vote for 2022 had been secured by Australia with the $4 million grant to Oceania Confederation for ‘sports development’ projects in August 2009.
But in light of Qatar’s emphatic 14-8 win over the USA in the fourth round of voting, it begs the question why Bin Hammam would be so keen to reduce Australia’s vote by a mere one going into the Executive Committee room? The Sunday Times reports that Bin Hammam met Temarii’s legal costs of around $460,000 – yet, on the face of it, the most number of votes we would have received was two.
How Australia may have built on these two votes is also a story for another day.
Finally, the Sunday Times has also published online a letter written by one of Australia’s trio of international Bid consultants, Peter Hargitay, who was very close to both Warner and Bin Hammam – so much so that he referred to both of them as ‘brothers’.
Hargitay wrote to Bin Hammam at the end of December 2010 to wish him a happy new year and to offer “respectful congratulations” on Bin Hammam’s accomplishment in securing Qatar’s win. He writes about Bin Hammam’s “ability to offer what others could not” and pontificates about the difference between ‘friends’ and ‘brothers’. He is apparently aggrieved that Bin Hammam has cut him out of “invitations and deprived me of your company” and appears regretful that they have drifted apart.
Hargitay was hired by Frank Lowy on the recommendation of SBS-TV’s Les Murray, because of his closeness to Bin Hammam, Warner and Blatter – and because he knew just what it took to win a World Cup.
Little wonder then that Hargitay couldn’t help but express his admiration to Bin Hammam on his accomplishment on behalf of Qatar when he writes: “Well done, remarkably executed, utterly accomplished.”
*Links to the Sunday Times articles are behind a paywall