Mohamed bin Hammam, the president of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC), has rejected the findings of the FIFA ethics committee hearing that banned from the game for life.
A two-day hearing of FIFA’s ethics committee found the 62-year-old Qatari guilty of corruption.
He had been accused of trying to buy votes in the FIFA presidential election with $40,000 cash gifts to Caribbean football officials.
“The official Mr Bin Hammam is hereby banned from taking part in any kind of football-related activity at national or international level for life,” announced ethics committee deputy chairman Petrus Damaseb.
Bin Hammam did not attend the hearing, which took place behind closed doors at FIFA headquarters in Zurich, but he told AFP news agency in a telephone conversation on Saturday evening that he intended to appeal.
He specified that the first step would consist of making an appeal to FIFA, but he has previously declared that he is prepared to take his case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) and, if necessary, the civil courts.
The head of Bin Hammam’s legal team, Eugene Gulland, read out a statement from him after the verdict was announced on Saturday.
Not over yet
“Mr Bin Hammam rejects the findings of the FIFA ethics committee hearing and maintains his innocence,” said Gulland. “He will continue to fight his case through the legal routes that are open to him.
“The FIFA ethics committee has apparently based its decision on so-called ‘circumstantial evidence’, which our case has clearly demonstrated was bogus and founded on lies told by senior FIFA officials.”
Bin Hammam, the most high-ranking FIFA figure to be convicted of corruption, also reacted to the decision on his blog by publishing a scanned copy of a personal letter sent to him by FIFA president Sepp Blatter in 2008.
In the letter, which Blatter addressed to “My dear brother,” Bin Hammam highlighted a phrase in which the 75-year-old Swiss had written: “Without you, dear Mohamed, none of this would ever have been possible”.
Below the letter were the words: “This is only the battle, not the war…” – suggesting that he holds Blatter at least partly responsible for his fate.
Bin Hammam’s withdrawal from the presidential election gifted a fourth straight term in office to his former ally Blatter, who made cleaning up FIFA’s tarnished image a post-election priority.
Whistle-blowers said Bin Hammam tried to bribe officials to vote for him by distributing cash-stuffed envelopes during a Caribbean Football Union (CFU) meeting in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, on May 10-11.
CFU officials Debbie Minguell and Jason Sylvester, also being investigated by the ethics committee over claims they helped hand out the money, were each banned from football-related activity for a year.
Acting AFC president Zhang Jilong, the favourite to succeed Bin Hammam at the head of the organisation, said it was “a sad day for AFC and Asian football”.
He added: “AFC respects world football governing body FIFA’s decision and we also acknowledge former AFC president Mohamed bin Hammam’s inalienable right to lodge an appeal against the decision”.