Wed, Dec 19, 2012 - Page 19 News List

Don’t let bin Hammam off the hook: ex-official

AP, KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia

Former Asian soccer administrator Peter Velappan said yesterday that Mohammed bin Hammam should not escape punishment for alleged corruption, despite resigning from all soccer-related positions and accepting a new life ban from FIFA.

Bin Hammam, a FIFA executive committee member from Qatar who challenged incumbent Sepp Blatter for the presidency last year, gave up his long-running dispute with soccer’s world governing body after being found guilty by FIFA of violations of its code of ethics while head of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC).

Velappan, who was AFC general secretary from 1978 to 2007, said the AFC and FIFA should pursue investigations into alleged corruption and misappropriation of funds by bin Hammam.

“This is his Christmas gift. He has no other choice but to resign, but it doesn’t mean that he should be let off the hook,” Velappan said.

“Fair play should not be just on the field, but also off the field. If bin Hammam has breached fair play, he must be made accountable and be charged,” he said.

FIFA said the 63-year-old bin Hammam sent a resignation letter to both FIFA and the AFC on Saturday. It said the second life ban was a result of the final report from its ethics committee showing “repeated violations” of ethics during bin Hammam’s term as AFC president and member of the FIFA executive committee.

AFC officials could not be reached for immediate comment yesterday.

The AFC plans to elect a new president in April, ending uncertainty, since bin Hammam was suspended by FIFA last year. Acting president Zhang Jilong is considered the front runner to take up the post.

FIFA handed bin Hammam a life ban last year after he was found guilty of bribing voters in a campaign to unseat Blatter, but the ban was lifted by the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

Bin Hammam has denied any wrongdoing, saying the FIFA probe was politically motivated to protect Blatter.

FIFA has said evidence from whistleblowers pointed to bin Hammam handing out US$40,000 bribes in cash to each of 24 Caribbean soccer nations during his campaign visit to Trinidad.

A year-long audit by the Malaysia-based AFC also revealed “infringements” regarding the “execution of certain contracts” and tampering with the organization’s bank accounts by bin Hammam while he was president.

As a result, the AFC ordered probes into how bin Hammam managed the accounts.

“I urge the AFC and FIFA to pursue charges against bin Hammam. This must be made a lesson to all future leaders that they cannot abuse their powers and escape with it,” Velappan said.

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