FIFA has banned Mohamed bin Hammam from football for life, making the Qatari the most senior FIFA official to have been convicted of corruption in the 107-year history of the world football governing body. The ethics committee handed down their punishment after months of investigation that showed bin Hammam had offered up $40,000 bribes in exchange for votes in the FIFA presidential election. It is expected that bin Hammam will now take his case to the FIFA appeals committee and if unsuccessful there, the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
It was alleged that bin Hammam offered up bribes to members of the Caribbean Football Union in his quest to unseat Sepp Blatter as FIFA president. It came just months after he helped Qatar shockingly win the right to host the 2022 World Cup, which cemented his status as a major powerbroker in world football and a threat to Blatter's reign. Evidence compiled by FIFA executive committee member Chuck Blazer started the investigation and FIFA claimed to have found additional evidence afterward that confirmed bin Hammam's guilt.
The ruling was made after an initial hearing in May that saw bin Hammam suspended indefinitely, subsequent investigation and a hearing over the last two days. As per FIFA rules, bin Hammam was informed of the charges brought against him and welcomed to attend the hearing to defend himself, but the Qatari did not appear.
According to panel chairman Petrus Damaseb, the hearing "was in keeping with the declared policy of the committee to show zero tolerance of unethical behavior."
Ever since he was accused, bin Hammam has maintained his innocence and said that the charges were a political move by Blatter to derail bin Hammam's presidential campaign, allowing Blatter to win a fourth term as head of FIFA. The scandal did force bin Hammam to withdraw his candidacy, although his indefinite suspension would have made him ineligible to run anyways.
With the ethics committee having ruled, bin Hammam can now take his case to the five-member FIFA appeals committee. They can overturn his suspension, as can the Court of Arbitration for Sport, which he can appeal to if the appeals committee does not rule in his favor. According to Eugene Gulland, bin Hammam's lead counsel, he will continue to fight the charges.
"[bin Hammam] will continue to fight his case through the legal routes that are open to him.," Gulland said. "The FIFA ethics committee has apparently based its decision upon so called 'circumstantial' evidence, which our case has clearly demonstrated was bogus and founded on lies told by a senior FIFA official. We are confident of the strength of our case and invite FIFA to make available now to the media a full transcript of these proceedings."
In addition to being an executive committee member who was running for president, bin Hammam was also the president of the Asian Football Confederation. Now he is just the third executive committee member to be suspended for corruption in the last nine months.
Two members of the Caribbean Football Union who were also implicated in bin Hammam's bribery attempt were each suspended by the ethics committee for one year. The panel also recommended that FIFA open investigations into three other member who allegedly assisted bin Hammam in his bribery attempt, while investigations into several other members who allegedly accepted the bribes continue.