FIFA suspended two executive committee members from voting for the 2018 and 2022 World Cup hosts on Thursday after completing a corruption investigation, and cleared Qatar and Spain-Portugal of vote-trading.
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FIFA’s ethics panel banned Nigeria’s Amos Adamu from all football activity for three years for agreeing to take bribes from undercover reporters from the British Sunday Times newspaper who posed as lobbyists trying to buy votes.
Reynald Temarii of Tahiti, the president of Oceania’s confederation, was suspended for one year for breaching FIFA’s loyalty and confidentiality rules when he was secretly filmed in the undercover sting.
Four former FIFA executive committee members also were suspended based on allegations published by the newspaper.
"It is sad," FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke said. "It was not necessary what has happened. The way FIFA and the ethics committee has reacted shows how important it is to show things are under control."
With Adamu and Temarii suspended, 22 FIFA ruling committee members – instead of 24 – will vote in the World Cup secret ballots on Dec. 2 in Zurich. Temarii was mandated by Oceania to back Australia in 2022 voting.
Valcke said there was not enough time for appeals by Adamu and Temarii to overturn the ethics verdicts before the vote.
"There will only be 22 members for the vote," Valcke said at a news conference.
The poll will proceed with a full slate of nine bid candidates after FIFA’s ethics committee, led by chairman Claudio Sulser, found no evidence to prove the British newspaper’s claims that Qatar and Spain-Portugal broke rules by colluding to exchange votes.
"We didn’t find sufficient grounds to reach the conclusion that there was any collusion," said Sulser, adding that the FIFA voters implicated gave written statements but were not questioned.
Qatar bid chief executive Hassan Al-Thawadi welcomed a ruling he said would end weeks of "rumors and hearsay."
"We were always confident of this outcome because we have conducted ourselves throughout the campaign adhering to the highest ethical standards," Al-Thawadi said in a statement.
Miguel Angel Lopez Garcia, the Iberian bid’s director general, said the FIFA decision was expected.
"It shows there was nothing there – I don’t know why or who wanted to throw garbage on our bid," Lopez Garcia told The Associated Press in a telephone interview.
The 2018 contest is between England, Russia and the joint bids of Belgium-Holland and Spain-Portugal. The 2022 race involves the United States, Australia, Japan, South Korea and Qatar.
Adamu said he was "profoundly disappointed" and would launch an appeal when FIFA provides reasons for the ruling.
"I am innocent of all the charges leveled against me by the ethics committee and I completely refute the decision they have made," Adamu said in a statement.
Temarii’s lawyer, Geraldine Lesieur, said he had mixed emotions about the outcome, because "the most important thing for him was to be cleared of the corruption" allegations.
"We have trouble understanding" the decision, Lesieur told The AP in a telephone interview. She acknowledged his appeal to FIFA would not be completed before Dec. 2.
Lesieur called The Sunday Times "crooks, fabricators," and said Temarii is suing the newspaper in a London court for defamation.
Thursday’s rulings were delivered after a monthlong investigation that FIFA President Sepp Blatter insisted should "bring back credibility to football." Blatter will speak at a news conference on Friday after chairing an emergency session of his executive committee.
Sulser’s panel examined evidence and heard witnesses in a three-day session this week, using unedited videos and transcripts provided by the newspaper.
"The damage done to FIFA is very great," said Sulser. "When one talks of FIFA there is generally a negative attitude out there. There is talk of corruption."
Sulser also criticized the newspaper for "twisting the facts" by publishing edited interviews last month.
The paper had video showing Adamu requesting $800,000 (euro580,000) to build four artificial football pitches in Nigeria, and for the money to be paid to him directly.
Temarii was filmed appearing to ask for NZ$3 million ($2.3 million; euro1.7 million) to fund a football academy in Auckland, New Zealand.
The four former FIFA executive members were suspended for a total of 12 years. They reportedly advised how to bribe FIFA officials and how much to pay.
Tunisian lawyer Slim Aloulou, who chairs FIFA’s disputes panel, received a two-year sanction. FIFA referees committee member Amadou Diakite of Mali and Ahongalu Fusimalohi from Tonga were suspended for three years, and Botswana’s Ismail Bhamjee got a four-year ban.
All can challenge the decisions at the FIFA appeal committee, then the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
All received fines of 10,000 Swiss francs ($10,000), except for Temarii who was fined 5,000 Swiss Francs ($5,000).
Adamu, a former Nigeria sports minister, faces further sanctions from an anti-corruption investigation at home. Nigeria’s government has called his case "shocking and disturbing," and said it would act if FIFA proved the allegations.
Adamu seems certain to be ousted from the FIFA executive body he joined in 2006 following another World Cup scandal. He succeeded Bhamjee, who resigned after being caught scalping match tickets at the tournament in Germany.
Adamu’s four-year FIFA term representing the Confederation of African Football expires next May, though his seat is up for election on Feb. 23 at the CAF assembly being held in Khartoum, Sudan.
Temarii also faces re-election to retain his FIFA seat. The 43-year-old former professional player was expected to seek another term as president of the Oceania confederation, which grants him status as a FIFA vice president.
Valcke said Thursday that Oceania officials have postponed the election which was to be held in January in Tahiti.
Oceania’s acting president, David Chung, said it was satisfied Temarii was found to breach only "minor clauses" in FIFA’s ethics code.
"We will respect any decision Mr. Temarii takes to pursue the appeal process," Chung said in a statement.