Qatar 2022 bid hits back at corruption claims

Qatar welcomed an investigation into alleged corruption in its

victorious 2022 World Cup bid but said Monday the evidence put

forward so far was false, unsubstantiated and coming from a

whistle-blower who was 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 on the December

ballot. It has denied the allegations.

Since then, FIFA President Sepp Blatter has 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 offered no fresh evidence to refute the claims and,

instead, attempted to cast doubt on the Sunday Times allegations,

suggesting the methods it used to build the case called into

question the ”credibility of the reporters, their motivations and

extent to which … the evidence in any way can be relied

upon.”

The bid committee argued the allegations contained no firsthand

evidence of bribes and were based solely on hearsay. It also

criticized the use of undercover reporters posing as ”corrupt

representatives of the United States,” as well as testimony from

one individual – Michel Zen Ruffinen – whom the committee says

later retracted his claims.

”We would caution anyone against placing reliance on

uncorroborated statements made by an embittered ex-employee without

a full and balanced understanding of that individual’s personal and

professional circumstances. Without knowing the identity of the

alleged whistle-blower, the details of the allegations made or the

circumstances in which they have been made, it is impossible for

the Bid Committee to respond to these allegations any further at

this stage,” the committee said.

In an often angry and defensive one-page statement, the bid

committee went on to complain about the British Parliament’s

publishing of the allegations, which it called ”distressing,

insulting and incomprehensible.”

The bid 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.”

Harold Mayne-Nicholls, who led the FIFA inspection team, was in

Qatar on Monday to speak at a stadium design and development

conference. He wouldn’t talk about the latest corruption

allegations. But he insisted that neither he nor any members of the

inspection committee ever received anything from Qatar nor did he

receive ”a single phone call or a single letter” pressuring the

committee to emphasize the positive or negative aspects of any of

the bids.

”Nobody approached a single member of the inspection committee

for nothing,” he said.

Mayne-Nicholls said he still had concerns about the heat in

Qatar, but argued that authorities had the time and the ability to

solve the problems and that it would host ”a wonderful World

Cup.”