The Mohamed bin Hammam bribery scandal just won't go away and now it is just getting bigger. FIFA has uncovered additional evidence that bin Hammam offered cash bribes to voters prior to the FIFA presidential election. The Qatari was running for president, but resigned following the bribery investigation and he was later provisionally suspended until the investigation was complete. A final decision on his status in world football will come at a hearing on July 22 and 23 in Zurich, Switzerland, where a lifetime ban could be issued.
Originally, four associations admitted to accepting or being offered $40,000 cash bribes that the FIFA ethics committee said was part of "comprehensive, convincing and overwhelming evidence" that bin Hammam had violated FIFA rules. Now the number of associations that have told investigators that they were offered bribes is up to nine. Allegedly, $1 million has been paid out in bribes.
The investigation was conducted by ex-FBI director Louis Freeh and everything he has been found has been turned into the judge leading the FIFA ethics committee probe, Robert Torres. He has forwarded his report onto bin Hammam, who will be able to argue against any charges in writing, present evidence and bring in witnesses at the hearing if he chooses. It is expected that bin Hammam will fight all charges considering that he has insisted that he is innocent since the investigation first began.
The scandal started when FIFA executive committee member Chuck Blazer sent evidence to FIFA that included photos and sworn affidavits of bin Hammam's attempt to bribe voters to vote for him. The incident occurred at the Caribbean Football Union meetings and also led to three others being investigated by the FIFA ethics committee. Former CONCACAF president Jack Warner had his investigation dropped when he agreed to resign from all football-related posts, while two CFU will also be at the hearing on June 22 and 23.
Warner has yet to meet with investigators despite agreeing to comply with any investigation when he resigned from football-related activities. 12 other Caribbean associations did not meet with investigators either. Carlos Prowell, vide-president of the Guyana federation was not one of them and he spoke about what he witnessed at the CFU meetings.
"Mr. Bin Hammam came and made his presentation and talked about what he wanted to do about football. After that we were told to go to collect our gifts - it is normal to receive token gifts at all football functions from FIFA, CONCACAF and CFU.
"I was in the lobby and saw some of the other guys coming out with brown envelopes. I did not know what was inside the envelope but was told by one them it contained cash. We didn't know how much inside the envelopes - only later when we read about it in the media. We took a collective decision not to receive the gifts. I am a banker by profession and therefore anything that I do must be above board and very clear. I think people from the other federations may have accepted their gifts in good faith."
It appears as if bin Hammam can keep arguing his innocence all he wants, but the FIFA ethics committee will not agree. Considering the bribery charges, odds are that he is facing a lifetime suspension, meaning overhaul in the Asian Football Confederation, of which he was the president.