FIFA ethics court to begin World Cup votes probe

FIFA’s ethics court begins a three-day session on Monday to help

decide if two voters and at least two candidates should be barred

from the 2018 and 2022 World Cup bidding contests for alleged

corruption.

The unprecedented meeting in Zurich will shape a tense final

stretch of lobbying before FIFA’s executive committee chooses the

hosts in a secret ballot on Dec. 2. The poll could proceed without

Reynald Temarii and Amos Adamu, who are suspended from the 24-man

body and will plead their case for reinstatement to the ethics

committee.

FIFA president Sepp Blatter has said the ethics probe should

”bring back credibility to football.”

Awarding a World Cup is FIFA’s most important decision, with

each tournament required to earn around 95 percent of the governing

body’s income every four years.

However, the process has been rocked by allegations made by the

British Sunday Times last month. The newspaper published secretly

filmed interviews with current and former FIFA officials which

suggested voters could be bribed, and that bidders were flouting

the rules by striking vote-trading pacts.

Those being investigated have stressed their innocence and

expressed confidence that the ethics panel will find no conclusive

evidence of corruption.

”I have no doubt that I will vote on Dec. 2,” Temarii, the

suspended FIFA vice president, told The Associated Press last week.

He said the ethics hearing would let him show that ”grossly

manipulated” interviews were edited to make him appear

corrupt.

Temarii, the Tahitian president of Oceania’s confederation, and

Amos Adamu of Nigeria were filmed in an undercover sting appearing

to offer their votes for sale to fund football projects at

home.

Asian confederation president Mohamed Bin Hammam also has

defended his native Qatar, a 2022 candidate, against allegations of

colluding with 2018 contender Spain-Portugal.

”I can bet you (that) you will never see any proof,” Bin

Hammam told a Swiss television channel in a recent interview posted

on his personal website.

FIFA has not identified which of the nine bidders it is

investigating. The European contest for 2018 is between England,

Russia and the joint bids of Belgium-Netherlands and

Spain-Portugal. The 2022 race involves the United States,

Australia, Japan, South Korea and Qatar.

An Oct. 20 meeting of the ethics committee already was set to

examine bidders’ behavior when the Sunday Times published its first

allegations about Temarii and Adamu. A second round of revelations

came the next weekend.

Blatter’s former right-hand man at FIFA, Michel Zen-Ruffinen,

was shown telling reporters posing as lobbyists that Qatar and

Spain-Portugal had arranged to secure seven of the 24 votes. A

simple majority is needed to win.

”This is not just a rumor, that’s fact,” said Zen-Ruffinen,

who succeeded his boss Blatter to serve as FIFA’s general secretary

from 1998-2002 and was offering to work as a consultant.

Talk about a Qatari-Iberian plot deepened when it emerged that

during an Oct. 29 meeting of FIFA’s executive committee, Spain’s

bid leader Angel Maria Villar passed a note to Bin Hammam which

translated as ”Congratulations, we’re going to win.” Villar’s

intended meaning is unclear, but witnesses said it happened after

Blatter acknowledged no hard evidence of collusion had been

found.

Blatter is likely to play a big role if the ethics committee

offers up advise rather than binding verdicts on Wednesday.

Led by lawyer and former Switzerland player Claudio Sulser, the

independent panel gets its authority from the executive committee

chaired by Blatter. FIFA statutes also allow ethics decisions to be

challenged at its appeal committee and then the Court of

Arbitration for Sport.

The FIFA president has called his executive group into emergency

session in Zurich on Friday to address the ethics decisions.

The ethics committee also will consider cases against four

former FIFA executive committee members who, like Temarii and

Adamu, are serving provisional suspensions from football duty.

Tunisian lawyer Slim Aloulou, Amadou Diakite of Mali, Botswana’s

Ismail Bhamjee and Ahongalu Fusimalohi from Tonga all reportedly

advised undercover reporters how to bribe FIFA voters and how much

to pay.