FIFA has opened an investigation into bribery claims against FIFA vice-presidents Mohamed bin Hammam and Jack Warner after receiving evidence from FIFA executive committee member Chuck Blazer. It is another in a long line of corruption allegations within FIFA with the intensity of the scrutiny picking up after Russia was awarded the right to host the 2018 World Cup and Qatar was awarded the right to host the 2022 World Cup in December.
What makes these allegations carry extra weight is that bin Hammam is running for FIFA president with the vote between he and current president Sepp Blatter coming on June 1. In addition, Warner has long been a close ally of Blatter's and as the president of CONCACAF, he carries weight within FIFA as well. Two members of the CFU, Debbie Minguell and Jason Sylvester, are also part of the investigation.
Blazer compiled evidence against bin Hammam, Warner, Minguell and Sylvester after hearing that bin Hammam was offering bribes in exchange for presidential election votes at a CFU special meeting organized by bin Hammam and Warner. Upon hearing that, Blazer and an attorney gathered evidence and sent it to FIFA, spurring the investigation.
A FIFA statement read: "On May 24, 2011, FIFA executive committee member and CONCACAF general secretary Chuck Blazer reported to FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke possible violations of the FIFA code of Ethics allegedly committed by officials.
"In particular, the report referred to a special meeting of the Caribbean Football Union (CFU), apparently organised jointly by FIFA vice-president Jack A. Warner and FIFA executive committee member Mohamed Bin Hammam, which took place on May 10 and 11 2011. This meeting was linked to the upcoming FIFA presidential election.
"In view of the facts alleged in this report, which include bribery allegations, FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke, in compliance with art. 16 of the FIFA code of ethics, yesterday requested the FIFA ethics committee to open ethics proceedings.''
All four members under investigation will have to attend a hearing in Zurich on May 29 in front of the ethics committee. The chairman of the committee, Claudio Sulser, will not oversee the hearing because he is Swiss like Blatter and it could be construed as a conflict of interest. Instead, deputy chairman Petrus Damaseb of Namibia will oversee the meeting.
Depending on the ruling of the ethics committee, bin Hammam could be ruled ineligible to run for president. That would mean that Blatter would win the election unopposed.
Warner is already under fire for years of alleged corruption, including allegations by former English FA chairman Lord Triesman, who claims that Warner was looking for a bribe in exchange for his 2018 World Cup host vote. Tries also alleged systematic corruption within FIFA, naming several other people who had asked for bribes in exchange for their World Cup vote.
The decision to award underdogs Russia the 2018 World Cup and Qatar the 2022 World Cup was met with claims that the voting had been filled with corruption because established football powers like England, Netherlands and Spain were passed over, just as technically superior bids by the United States and Australia were.
Prior to the voting, two members of the FIFA executive committee were suspended from FIFA for bribery. Neither was allowed to vote in the awarding of the World Cup hosts.