Qatari President of the Asian Football Confederation, Mohamed Bin Hammam, along with FIFA Vice President, Trinidadian Jack Warner, and the long-standing current President of FIFA, Sepp Blatter, were implicated in an alleged corruption scandal which is threatening to “tear apart” FIFA, the wealthy global body that governs soccer.
A corruption probe was initiated after at least four of the delegates apparently refused the cash and reported the incident to FIFA executive committee member Chuck Blazer, who engaged former US federal prosecutor John P Collins to conduct a full investigation.
FIFA’s dirty money trail was revealed in pictures of cash in brown envelopes offered to members after a presentation by then presidential candidate Mohamed Bin Hammam.
The money was delivered to a Caribbean football official in an envelope which, the picture shows, has the word ‘Bahamas’ on it.
Inside was $40,000 – equivalent to several years’ pay for many officials from the Caribbean’s smaller islands – in four packs of new $100 notes. Members of the Caribbean Football Union had been invited to the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Trinidad on May 10 to listen to Bin Hammam present his manifesto.
Afterwards, the 25 associations, whose flights and hotel costs were being covered by Bin Hammam, were asked to go to a conference room to pick up ‘a gift’, according to an affidavit sent to FIFA’s ethics committee.
Fred Lunn, vice-president of the Bahamas FA, was one of the first to go up to the room, where he was handed a large brown envelope. When he opened it ‘stacks of $100 fell out and on to the table. I was stunned to see this cash,’ he said in the affidavit presented on Sunday.
Copies of these texts were sent to the ethics committee, which suspended Bin Hammam and FIFA vice-president Jack Warner on Sunday pending a full inquiry, along with CFU officials Debbie Minguell and Jason Sylvester.
Sealey then called Lunn and told him ‘under no circumstances would the Bahamas FA accept such a cash gift’ and that he should return the $40,000.
Lunn took a photograph of the money before he replaced it in the envelope, and when he returned to the conference room to hand the cash back, he had to wait while other officials queued to go in.
Allegations that Qatar’s bid team for the 2022 World Cup had paid bribes for votes had been made in Parliament on the same day. Sealey texted Lunn to say: ‘I’m disappointed but not surprised. It is important that (we) maintain our integrity when the story is told. That money will not make or break our association. You can leave with your head high.’
The following morning, Lunn attended a meeting where delegates were addressed by Warner, head of the CFU.
Lunn said in his affidavit: ‘Mr Warner stated he had instructed Mr Bin Hammam to bring the cash equivalent of any gift he had intended to bring for the people attending this meeting.
The picture of the money was included in evidence compiled for Blazer by CONCACAF lawyer John Collins, who showed the time of the photograph, a hotel bar receipt and memo pad and a CFU letterhead.
The dossier includes copies of emails sent from Warner to Blazer urging him to set up a special meeting for Bin Hammam. After Blazer blocked this request Warner emailed: ‘I will let him talk to the members of the Caribbean Football Union instead and invite such other members who are willing to attend to do so.’