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FIFA's Blatter cleared in corruption probe
Footballing ethics committee suspends two officials but says organisation's president has no case to answer.
Last Modified: 29 May 2011 22:37
The suspensions were announced by Petrus Damaseb, the ethics committee's deputy-chairman[Reuters]

A footballing ethics committee has cleared Sepp Blatter, the president of world footballing body FIFA, of turning a blind eye to the alleged bribing of football officials.

Two other officials, Mohamed bin Hammam and Jack Warner, have been temporarily suspended pending a further investigation.
 
The decisions were announced following a hearing of the FIFA ethics committee in Zurich on Sunday.

"A full inquiry is going to be held in due course," Petrus Damaseb, the Namibian judge who is deputy-chairman of the ethics committee looking into the accusations, said.

Bin Hammam, the Qatari head of the Asian Football Confederation, had challenged Blatter for the FIFA presidency and is accused of paying officials $40,000 during a campaign visit to Port of Spain earlier this month.

The payments were allegedly made to secure votes in his campaign to unseat Blatter as the head of football's governing body.

Warner, FIFA's vice-president, was also implicated in the scandal which arose from allegations made by Chuck Blazer, an American FIFA executive committee.

Both men have denied any wrongdoing.

Blatter was drawn into the investigation to answer allegations that he had turned a blind eye to the payment of bribes.

Bribery scandal

Before of the ethics committee hearing, Bin Hammam pulled out of the race, leaving it likely that Blatter would be re-elected as FIFA president for a fourth term.

Blatter will now stand unopposed for the FIFA presidency at a meeting of the footballing body on Wednesday.

John Cross, a football writer for the UK's Daily Mirror newspaper, called the decision "a bit of a whitewash".

"It's been a wonderful day for Sepp Blatter because he has now an open road on Wednesday for four more years of presidency," Cross told Al Jazeera.

"Really I find it farcical that an investigation isn't to be conducted beyond today's evidence because Sepp Blatter has confirmed [in his evidence to the committee] that as far as he saw it bribes were put forward ... but he chose not to report that."

The ethics committee found Blatter was under no obligation to report an intention to bribe officials.

Damaseb said at the news conference: "The committee was satisfied that even assuming he [Blatter] had been told, there was no duty on his part to report because there was no breach at that stage."

'Disappointed'

In a statement following the news conference, Bin Hammam acknowledged the committee's decision but said he failed to understand why he had been suspended without being found guilty.

"I have been referred to the ethics committee based on evidence which was strong enough in the views of the FIFA general secretary for such [a] procedure," he said.

"However, the ethics committee in its meeting today did not find this evidence sufficient to convict me. Consequently, I should have been given the benefit of doubt but, instead, I have been banned from all football activities."

Bin Hammam said that he was "disappointed" at how the proceedings were presented at the news conference.

"This is not how I understand fair play," he said.

The bribery scandal is the gravest corruption crisis of Blatter's 13-year reign, which has seen FIFA's reputation tarnished by repeated allegations of vote-buying and financial wrongdoing.

Last November, Reynald Temarii and Amos Adamu, two other FIFA executive committee members, were banned over cash-for-votes allegations concerning the hosting of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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