Wed, Nov 19, 2014 - Page 18 News List

Qatari protests FIFA bid report

WHISTLE-BLOWER:Phaedra Almajid’s most serious allegation was that African members of FIFA’s ruling board were paid US$1.5 million to vote for the Qatar bid

AP, GENEVA, Switzerland

A Qatari whistle-blower has lodged a complaint about her treatment in the World Cup bid corruption report by FIFA’s judge and the Football Association (FA) demanded the release of the full corruption investigation on Monday.

Former Qatar World Cup bid worker Phaedra Almajid said that she wrote to FIFA prosecutor Michael Garcia about judge Joachim Eckert breaching her right to witness confidentiality. It was sent late on Sunday to the e-mail address at the Manhattan law firm where Garcia is a partner.

In the letter of complaint she wrote that Eckert “falsely discredits me in order to support his indefensible conclusion that the December 2010 bidding was wholly acceptable.”

Almajid’s protest adds to a chaotic response since Thursday last week when FIFA released Eckert’s summary of the Garcia investigation into corruption in the 2018 and 2022 World Cup bidding contests won by Russia and Qatar respectively.

Both Russia and Qatar have denied any wrongdoing.

Garcia himself said his was work was misrepresented by Eckert and appealed to FIFA. He is challenging the German judge’s decision to close the case because “problematic” wrongdoing by candidates was “of limited scope” and did not justify reviewing the votes by FIFA’s executive committee.

Almajid gave evidence to Garcia alleging wrongdoing by Qatar’s bid when she was its head of international media until early 2010.

She said the report denounced her as unreliable in a “crude, cynical and fundamentally erroneous” summary of her cooperation.

“My cooperation was based on your promise of confidentiality,” Almajid wrote to Garcia.

Though not named by Eckert in his 42-page document, Almajid was easily identified — in a section covering Qatar titled “Role and Relevance of a “Whistleblower” — from her previous public statements. She was named in a July 2011 statement in which she retracted her claims of corruption, but later said she was coerced to do so by Qatari bid officials.

Almajid’s most serious allegation was aired by a British parliamentary committee in May 2011, that African members of FIFA’s ruling board were paid US$1.5 million to vote for Qatar in the five-nation contest.

She also made allegations to Garcia of Qatar’s US$1.8 million sponsorship of an African soccer meeting in Angola in 2010 and how the Aspire Academy in Doha was used to further the emirate’s campaign.

Still, Eckert wrote that Garcia’s investigation report concluded that “it appeared that the [whistle-blower] source has altered evidence to support its allegations.”

Almajid said speaking out had jeopardized the safety of herself and her two sons.

“I have taken great personal risks to stand up for the truth in a highly politicized atmosphere,” she wrote to Garcia. “However, I have found myself betrayed and denigrated for being courageous enough to come forward with critical information.”

Garcia must now decide whether to use Almajid’s complaint to prosecute a case against his ethics committee co-chairman for unethical behavior.

Eckert and Garcia are scheduled to meet this week for talks to resolve their rift.

They should also cooperate on ongoing prosecutions against individual FIFA voters.

The FA, whose own 2018 bidding conduct was criticized in Eckert’s report, wants Garcia’s full findings to be published.

FA chairman Greg Dyke wrote to FIFA president Sepp Blatter and his fellow executive committee members to warn that the lack of public disclosure “has resulted in a further decline in public confidence of FIFA. We cannot go on like this.”

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