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Another twist as FBI protection offered to Qatar World Cup 2022 whistleblower

‘It has cost me emotionally — I know for a fact I will be looking over my shoulder for the rest of my life’.

A worker cleans the road outside Khalifa sport complex in Doha, Qatar
A worker cleans the road outside Khalifa sport complex in Doha, Qatar
Image: AP/Press Association Images

A WHISTLEBLOWER WHO gave evidence of corruption against the Qatar 2022 World Cup bid claimed today she had been offered FBI protection in light of threats made against her and her children.

Phaedra Almajid, who worked for the Qatar 2022 bid team before losing her job in 2010, provided evidence to investigator Michael Garcia’s independent inquiry into corruption allegations surrounding both the 2018 and 2022 World Cup bids.

Almajid gave her evidence on condition of anonymity — a condition she believes was flouted deliberately when a summary of Garcia’s report was published by global football governing body FIFA’s ethics committee judge Hans-Joachim Eckert last week.

“Do I regret being the Qatar whistleblower? It has cost me personally, it has cost me emotionally — I know for a fact I will be looking over my shoulder for the rest of my life,” Almajid told Sky Sports News today

“It has cost me my credibility and most importantly it has cost me the security of both me and my children.

“However I did witness something and I believe I did have to say what I had witnessed.”

Almajid added she believed the threats had more to do with Qatar than FIFA.

“I had a lot of cyber attacks, a lot of them were directed to my children. I do believe it was through the Qataris. They knew a lot of information about me that I don’t believe FIFA knew or were interested in. I was a bigger threat to the Qataris than I ever was to FIFA.”

Almajid and fellow whistleblower Bonita Mersiades, who worked for Australia’s unsuccessful 2022 bid, have separately lodged formal complaints against Eckert’s summary.

Australia 2022 Soccer WCup Announcement Australian's wait before the announcement of the hosts of the 2022 World Cup. Source: AP/Press Association Images


“I was shocked, immediately I was crying,” Almajid said. ”Every time I met with Michael Garcia he ensured me everything was confidential.

“It was agreed before I even met him that I would not participate in the investigation unless I was kept anonymous and everything I provided was kept in confidence.

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“I had no reason not to trust him so I was completely in shock at what was done. I feel frightened at the moment because Eckert so conveniently, so calculatedly made sure that my identity was revealed.”

Almajid added: “Why has it happened? Simply to silence any other whistleblowers and to intimidate me and Bonita so we will stop talking about what happened during the 2022 bidding process.”

Meanwhile Almajid also said she had been contacted by the United States’ Federal Bureau of Investigation as a result of concerns for her safety and that of her family.

“I was at home watching TV and then there were three FBI agents at my doorstep and said they wanted to talk to me,” she said.

“I let them in and they said to me: ‘We are here because we know you have received threats and we know the security and that of your children has been jeopardised, so we want to be here to see what we can do to help you’.

“It was terrifying. I opened up the door and there were three men there with their badges and they asked me all questions pertaining to my time in Qatar, what I had observed, what I had witnessed, everything and especially about the threats and affidavit.”

Soccer - FIFA 2018 Russia World Cup Stadium Visit - Fisht Stadium A stadium in Sochi that is being reconstructre for Russia's 2018 Fifa World Cup. Source: Artur Lebedev

Eckert’s summary of Garcia’s 18-month investigation cleared Russia and Qatar to stage the 2018 and 2022 World Cups respectively and ruled out a re-vote for the tournaments despite widespread allegations of wrongdoing.

But in an extraordinary development, US-based lawyer Garcia said he would appeal against the findings in Eckert’s summary as they contained “numerous materially incomplete and erroneous representations of the facts and conclusions” detailed in his report — which has not been made public.

There was a fresh twist to the saga on Tuesday when FIFA said it had lodged a criminal complaint with Swiss authorities over “possible misconduct” by individuals connected to the bids.

- © AFP, 2014

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