Hayatou denies Qatar corruption allegations

Issa Hayatou. (Themba Hadebe/AP)

FIFA vice-president and African football head Issa Hayatou has denied allegations in a British newspaper that he received free private medical treatment and other favours for backing Qatar to host the 2022 World Cup in a vote already marred by accusations of corruption and under investigation.

In a statement released late Sunday night, the Confederation of African Football called the string of allegations against its longtime president and one of FIFA’s senior officials "fanciful" and "ridiculous."

The Sunday Times newspaper said that banned former Qatari official Mohamed bin Hammam, once a FIFA vice-president himself, had targeted Hayatou and other African football leaders with cash, luxury trips and other gifts and favours to support Qatar’s ultimately successful World Cup bid.

In FIFA’s votes four years ago, Russia won the hosting rights for the 2018 World Cup and Qatar the 2022 tournament.

Among the denials made by CAF on Hayatou’s behalf, it said bin Hammam did not arrange treatment for Hayatou at a private clinic in return for support. The African football body also said Hayatou did not receive "valuable gifts" on a trip to Doha and has "never received any money" from bin Hammam, the emir of Qatar or any member of the Qatar 2022 bidding committee.

"Despite the ridiculous allegations, the CAF president has decided to answer to those accusations," the statement said.

The votes won by Russia and Qatar are being investigated by FIFA’s independent ethics prosecutors. They said Monday — a day after the fresh allegations of wrongdoing — that they will complete their months-long investigation next week and submit a report six weeks later.

Hayatou was one of four Africans on FIFA’s executive committee when it chose the World Cup host countries in a process tarnished by accusations of vote buying. Ultimately, only three of those African members voted after Nigeria’s Amos Adamu was suspended from the votes and later banned from football for three years for seeking bribes during the bidding process. Adamu was exposed in an undercover investigation by The Sunday Times just before the December 2010 vote.

In the latest allegations, The Sunday Times said bin Hammam used slush funds to make payments to accounts controlled by the presidents of 30 African football associations as part of an attempt to eventually influence the voting of the African block on the executive committee.

CAF said the 67-year-old Hayatou, who is from Cameroon, "denied categorically" the string of allegations made against him personally, including:

— That he received expensive gifts from bin Hammam on the trip to Doha in December 2009, a year before the World Cup vote.

— That he was involved in a payment of $400,000 to the Cameroon Football Federation through FIFA’s Goal project, which bin Hammam headed at the time.

— That he received 60 World Cup tickets from bin Hammam.

— That bin Hammam arranged for Hayatou, who has suffered from liver problems, to be treated at a private clinic after he voted for Qatar to get the World Cup.

— That Hayatou accepted luxury accommodation and business class flights from Qatar’s 2022 World Cup organizing committee.

The Sunday Times said a "senior FIFA insider" provided it with huge amounts of emails and documents detailing bin Hammam’s attempts to build support for Qatar’s bid among football officials using favours and payments totalling $5 million. Bin Hammam was a member of FIFA’s executive committee for 16 years and president of the Asian Football Confederation, but was expelled from world football in 2012 for financial corruption.

Current AFC President Shaikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa said he had "grave concerns" over the new allegations against Qatar’s World Cup bid process but was "convinced" the organizing committee "will do their utmost to clear the doubts."

Hayatou has been the head of African football since 1987. He has said this will be his last term of office.

In 2011, he was reprimanded by the International Olympic Committee for receiving money from former World Cup marketing company ISL in the mid-1990s. An investigation into a kickbacks scandal involving former FIFA President Joao Havelange found Hayatou had accepted $20,000 from ISL. He claimed the money was for a CAF function and not him personally.

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