Accusers 'want to assume worst' about Qatar

Extracts from Qatar 2022's detailed defence of 'unspecified' allegations over their successful World Cup bid.

    FIFA president Sepp Blatter reveals Qatar as the host of World Cup 2022 in Zurich in December [GALLO/GETTY]

    Since winning the right to host the 2022 World Cup in December last year, Qatar has faced allegations that it paid for votes from FIFA's executive committee.

    On Monday the Qatar 2022 bid team issued a long rebuttal of the allegations, which came about in a memorandum from The Sunday Times newspaper during a British parliamentary enquiry.

    Two members of FIFA's executive committee had already been suspended in November for offering to sell their votes to undercover Sunday Times reporters posing as lobbyists for the American bid.

    The accusations against Qatar have won extensive coverage. Because of that, excerpts from the bid team's first detailed defence are listed below.

    On the "vague" nature of the allegations:

    "Since participating and succeeding in the bidding process, the Bid Committee has been subject to a variety of serious allegations. 

    "However, none of these allegations has ever been substantiated. Indeed, they have all been false. 

    "Moreover, they have always consisted of generalised allegations of wrong-doing. No specific examples of alleged wrong-doing on the part of the Bid Committee, such as a specific payment made to a specific individual, have ever been identified to them. 

    "Advancing allegations against the Bid Committee in such a way is particularly unfair and in such circumstances, it is very hard for the Bid Committee to refute such vague allegations other than with a generalised denial."

    On the "whistleblower" who made claims against Qatar:

    "The Memorandum refers to an alleged unidentified 'whistleblower' who it is said formerly worked for the Bid Committee. It is true or two people retained by the Bid Committee have left on acrimonious terms, although through no fault of the Bid Committee. 

    "The only explanation apparent to us is that one such person, plainly with a significant axe to grind against the Bid Committee, is the alleged whistleblower in question.

    "We would caution anyone against placing reliance on uncorroborated statements made by an embittered ex-employee without a full and balanced understanding of that individual's personal and professional circumstances."

    On the expense of the Qatar 2022 bid:

    "The Bid Committee devoted considerable resources to its bid, which was necessary given that it was less well known internationally than most of its competitors. Moreover, Qatar wants the 2022 FIFA World Cup to be the best and the most professional in all aspects. 

    "At all times, the Bid Committee has observed rigorous propriety and acted entirely within the rules prescribed by FIFA for the bidding process.

    "The bid team included professionals from all over the world who worked with tireless endeavour and innovation and addressed the modern aspirations of world football to win for Qatar the right to host the FIFA World Cup.  The whole team and the whole of Qatar is very proud of that achievement. 

    "What is concerning and unfair is that there appear to be those who are unable to accept that a team from a country like Qatar could perform in this way and are ready - on the basis of no evidence - to assume the worst."

    On The Sunday Times' motives in not publishing evidence outside parliament:

    "The Memorandum also purports to explain the reasons for the decision of The Sunday Times not to publish in the newspaper some of the serious allegations set out in the Memorandum.

    "It states that this was on the basis that 'none of the three people who made allegations against Qatar was ever likely to be willing to appear as a witness.' 

    "The reporters will know (as the Bid Committee was advised by its lawyers) that the newspaper would have a defence to any libel claim brought in respect of the publication of these allegations if it could show that it constituted responsible journalism to do so and that publication was in the public interest.  It would be quite possible to advance such a defence without any of the three individuals mentioned giving evidence.
    "However, it must have been plain to the newspaper and the reporters that so unreliable and unsubstantiated were the allegations, that it would not have constituted responsible journalism for these allegations to be published.

    "It is extremely unfortunate that the reporters provided these allegations to the CMS Select Committee with the evident intention of having them published to the world, as they did in the Memorandum."

    On how The Sunday Times gathered evidence for its wider investigation into the bidding process:

    "The Memorandum refers to a series of alleged conversations between the reporters and a number of individuals connected with the bidding process for the 2018 and 2022 FIFA World Cup Finals.

    "What the Memorandum does not state is that the reporters were posing as corrupt representatives of the United States bid and ostensibly soliciting further corruption from those with whom they were speaking, in return for substantial payments. 

    "It appears that many of these individuals were simply seeking to impress the supposed US representatives and persuade them that it would be worth their while engaging them. Evidently, in such circumstances very little reliability can be attached to the words of such individuals."

    On former FIFA general secretary Michel Zen Ruffinen allegedly introducing undercover reporters to an agent called Amadou Diallo who fixed FIFA executive committee votes for Qatar:

    "The Memorandum refers to allegations that Mr Michel Zen Ruffinen allegedly made against the Bid Committee in the presence of the reporters (again we understand posing as corrupt representatives of the United States bid). However, the Memorandum fails to state that Mr Zen Ruffinen immediately retracted those allegations both in a letter to the Bid Committee and a letter to The Sunday Times."

    On their response to the allegations made in parliament:

    "The allegations are completely false. The Memorandum does not contain or refer to any first hand evidence of any bribes being paid or any impropriety on the part of the Bid Committee.

    "All the allegations are hearsay and supposition. In addition, the allegations are wholly unsupported by any documentary material whatsoever.

    "These individuals make serious allegations against the Bid Committee but fail to give any substantiation of the allegations. For example, they do not state when the alleged bribes were to be paid, how the negotiations with the individuals concerned had been conducted or crucially how they came to know of the alleged bribes. On any proper view, their evidence is worthless.
    "The Memorandum states that in the view of the reporters, the individuals 'had no reason to fabricate these allegations'. We do not agree for the reasons set out in this statement."

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera


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