Attempts to discredit Mohammed bin Hammam ahead of the International Federation of Association Football (FIFA) presidency elections were a “tawdry manoeuver” that showed “increasing evidence of a conspiracy,” a statement issued by the Qatari’s office said on Friday.
Bin Hammam is running against incumbent FIFA president Sepp Blatter to become president of world soccer’s governing body, but both men have been called to appear before FIFA’s ethics committee over allegations of corruption.
Bin Hammam, FIFA vice president Jack Warner and two Caribbean Football Union officials were summoned to the committee over reported possible misdeeds during a May 10 and 11 meeting in Trinidad.
British media reports said bin Hammam and Warner are accused of offering US$40,000 cash gifts to national associations at the Trinidad conference in return for their votes in the June 1 presidential election.
However, bin Hammam’s office on Friday said: “After having analyzed and answered the accusations of bribery made against Mohamed bin Hammam, it seems obvious that they are without substance. During his campaign for the FIFA presidency, Mohamed bin Hammam wanted to visit as many national associations as possible. It is true that Mr bin Hammam addressed representatives of the Caribbean Football Union at an extraordinary meeting in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, which took place on May 10 and 11. Nobody has ever tried to hide the fact that Mr bin Hammam paid for the delegates’ travel and accommodation expenses and covered the meeting’s administrative costs ... Mr bin Hammam reiterates that any allegations about him trying to buy votes are completely false.”
The statement added: “It is obvious that these allegations have been made to discredit Mr bin Hammam as a candidate in the imminent election for the FIFA presidency. For example, it took 14 days to formulate these allegations, whereas Mr bin Hammam was given less than 48 hours to respond. It is quite obvious that, following previous failed attempts, this is part of a final effort to prevent Mr bin Hammam from running for the FIFA presidency. Mr bin Hammam expects FIFA’s Ethics Committee to see through this tawdry manoeuver.”
FIFA announced earlier on Friday that Blatter had also been summoned to appear before the ethics committee to answer claims that Warner had told him in advance of alleged payments made at the meeting.
Blatter has denied suggestions from bin Hammam that he had orchestrated the charges against the man seeking to unseat him, dismissing them as “ludicrous.”
Meanwhile, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on Friday backed Blatter, calling all corruption allegations against him “rubbish.”
“What I see right now makes me perplexed, to put it mildly, to accuse the Swiss, Blatter, of corruption — that is utter rubbish,” Putin said, commenting on the FIFA bribery scandal to journalists in his Moscow region residence.
In other developments, British Prime Minister David Cameron said he thinks the workings of FIFA are “murky,” the Times newspaper quoted a Downing Street source as saying yesterday.
“The prime minister has made clear in public and private that he believes the workings of FIFA have become rather murky,” a Downing Street source told the newspaper.
British Sports Minister Hugh Robertson has called for the election to be suspended, claiming the campaign had descended into “a farce.”