Qatar 2022 bid hits back at corruption claims

Qatar on Monday welcomed an investigation into alleged corruption in its victorious 2022 World Cup bid but said the evidence put forward so far was false, unsubstantiated and coming from a whisteblower who is probably a former employee ”with a significant axe to grind.”

Qatar has been on the defensive since the Sunday Times submitted evidence to a British parliamentary inquiry earlier this month alleging that two African FIFA executives were paid $1.5 million in bribes to vote for Qatar’s successful 2022 bid in the December ballot. It has denied the allegations.

Since then, FIFA President Sepp Blatter said a former bid employee would be interviewed Wednesday about the claims as part of its wider investigation into alleged corruption in the bidding process for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.

”The Bid Committee welcomes a thorough investigation into the allegations made against it,” the committee said in a statement. ”However, such an investigation must surely only be carried out by a properly constituted body with due authority and independence where our side of the story can be heard. It is wholly inappropriate for any examination of the bid committee’s affairs to be based on unsubstantiated hearsay and inaccurate journalism.”

Qatar said the allegations by the Sunday Times were undermined by being based on undercover reporters posing as ”corrupt representatives of the United States,” a whistleblower out to harm the bid and evidence from at least one individual – Michel Zen Ruffinen – whom the bid says later retracted his claims.

Together, this raises ”considerable doubt on the credibility of the reporters, their motivations, and the extent to which the evidence placed by them before the CMS Select Committee can in any way be relied upon.”

In an often angry and defensive letter, the bid committee went onto to complain about the British Parliament’s publishing of the allegations which it called ”distressing, insulting and incomprehensible.”

It also suggested the allegations are part of a long-running campaign by unnamed parties to undermine the bid which beat the United States in a five-nation race in December, despite concerns the Gulf nation was too small and the weather there too hot during the summer months.

”What is concerning and unfair is that there appear to be those who are unable to accept that a team from a country like Qatar could perform in this way and are ready – on the basis of no evidence – to assume the worst,” the bid committee wrote. ”Qatar is excited at the prospect of hosting one of the world’s greatest sporting events and is determined to deliver a World Cup truly deserving of football fans around the world.”