In the never ending saga that surrounds the 2022 FIFA World Cup, due to be held in the tiny Arab peninsula of Qatar, English newspaper The Telegraph is now reporting that the FBI are investigating potential links between disgraced former FIFA Vice President Jack Warner and the successful Qatar bid. It is alleged that Warner was paid a significant amount of money (rumoured to be almost $2 million) shortly after the vote was cast in December 2010 by a firm strongly linked with the bid. Investigative journalists have uncovered documents that Warner received a payment from a company owned by Mohamed Bin Hammam, the then FIFA executive member for Qatar, in exchange for unknown services. Bin Hammam was thrown out of FIFA in July 2011 after it was discovered that he had offered financial incentives to members of the Caribbean Football Union (CFU) in exchanges for votes. The president of the CFU at that time was one Jack Warner. When an investigation was launched, Warner resigned with immediate effect which halted his participation in the investigation and turned the entire focus directly onto Bin Hammam. However it appears as though the FBI are now investigating these transactions as part of a criminal inquiry which could lead to more serious punishments for Warner and anyone else involved.
The FBI case is strong as they have obtained video that shows Warner informing delegates who had received envelopes with funds in them that they were “for personal use”. The new documents that have come to light include an invoice dated days after the vote from Jamad Limited, a firm established by Warner to Khalid Electric and Mechanical, owned solely by Bin Hammam. The invoice was for $1.2million to be paid for professional services carried out during 2005 and 2010. Ironically the idea behind Qatar hosting a World Cup was first discussed in early 2006 with a plan put in place and eventually a winning bid that was some 4 years in the making. The award of the World Cup to Qatar shocked the footballing community with other stronger bids from Australia, England and the US being seen as more plausible. Logistically a World Cup in Qatar is a nightmare with no footballing infrastructure in place, geographical concerns and a summer climate that is not suitable for outdoor games. From the moment the announcement was made, controversy has surrounded the decision, with FIFA repeatedly saying that the award was ethical and above board. This new development will come as a blow to President Sepp Blatter and the FBI investigation will strike fear deep in the heart of FIFA about how much they uncover. As part of the investigation, the FBI travelled to England at the tail end of last year, to consult with several members of their failed bid. At present, Warner appears to be the centre of any corruption scandal and the core focus for the US government agency but if they are to look deeper, there are genuine fears about what they will find under the FIFA veil.
The Qatar bid has defended its actions during the bid process, issuing a statement saying categorically that they complied with FIFA’s bidding regulations and in compliance with their code of ethics. They stated that they were unaware of any individuals acting in an unethical manner as part of their bid. Whilst this may be the truth, the question of complying with FIFA guidelines is thrown out if FIFA themselves are found to be corrupt.
Warner finds himself in increasingly deeper water that is rising day by day. If the FBI finds that Warner is guilty of accepting a bride as part of the voting process, it could lead to further investigations into the remaining members of FIFA that participated and if they too received payments. FIFA will comply as much as they can with the FBI in order to restrict the potential damage but if it’s found that the entire organization is corrupt, it could change the game as we know it.