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FIFA bans bin Hammam for life in bribery case

Qatari becomes the most senior soccer official convicted of corruption in FIFA’s 107-year history.

Image: Shirley Bahadur/AP/Press Association Images

FIFA BANNED MOHAMED BIN HAMMAM from soccer for life today after finding him guilty of bribing presidential election voters.

A FIFA ethics panel ruled that the Qatari candidate conspired to pay Caribbean officials $40,000 cash bribes to back his ultimately abandoned challenge to FIFA President Sepp Blatter.

The verdict “was in keeping with the declared policy of the committee to show zero tolerance of unethical behavior,” panel chairman Petrus Damaseb said.

Bin Hammam, a 15-year veteran of the FIFA executive committee, is the most senior soccer official convicted of corruption in its 107-year history.

His lawyer said Bin Hammam rejected the findings based on “so-called circumstantial evidence” and maintained his innocence.

“He will continue to fight his case through the legal routes that are open to him,” lead counsel Eugene Gulland told reporters.

The Asian Football Confederation president didn’t cooperate with the FIFA investigation or attend his two-day hearing.

Bin Hammam has denied wrongdoing and wrote on his website yesterday, while the FIFA panel sat in session, that he expected a guilty verdict.

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FIFA also suspended two Caribbean Football Union staffers, Debbie Minguell and Jason Sylvester, for one year for their part in distributing the bribes at a meeting in Trinidad on 10 May.

FIFA faces further focus on corruption in its ranks as Damaseb, a judge from Namibia, asked for a second wave of investigations.

Damaseb’s five-man panel has asked FIFA’s legal department to prepare cases against Caribbean soccer leaders who are suspected of taking bin Hammam’s bribes, and denying to FIFA investigators that any corruption took place.

FIFA executive committee member Chuck Blazer, who commissioned a dossier of evidence which sparked the explosive case, received an official warning for a comment directed at CFU officials.

Damaseb said Blazer was wrong to have suggested at a meeting in Zurich on 30 May that CFU members were then “under investigation.”

FIFA’s ethics panel dismissed a further complaint that Blazer’s comment was racially motivated.

– AP

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