The 2022 World Cup in Qatar has become the focus of fresh FIFA corruption allegations after the release of a new U.S. Department of Justice indictment which says bribes were paid to football officials to secure their votes for hosting rights.
Suspicion and rumours have long surrounded both the 2010 vote by FIFA’s executive to hand the 2018 World Cup to Russia and the 2022 tournament to Qatar. But on Monday, for the first time, prosecutors set direct, formal allegations down in print.
According to the prosecutors, representatives working for Russia and Qatar bribed FIFA executive committee officials to swing votes in the crucial hosting decisions of world football’s governing body.
Qatar World Cup organizers did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Qatar and Russia’s World Cup bids have always denied paying bribes.
FIFA said in a statement it supported all investigations into “alleged acts of criminal wrongdoing” and noted it had been accorded victim status in the U.S. criminal proceedings.
“The FIFA Ethics Committee has already imposed sanctions, including life bans, on football officials mentioned in this process,” said a FIFA spokesman.
“So far as FIFA is concerned, should any acts of criminal wrongdoing by football officials be established, the individuals in question should be subject to penal sanctions.
“As the respective criminal cases are ongoing we are not in a position to comment further for the time being.”
Although FIFA has reacted to previous media allegations about the Qatar bid process by insisting the tournament will be unaffected, the U.S allegations will lead to further questions over the hosting of the tournament, which is scheduled for November and December of 2022.
The indictment states that the three South American members of FIFA’s 2010 executive – Brazil’s Ricardo Teixeira, the late Nicolas Leoz of Paraguay and an unnamed co-conspirator – took bribes to vote for Qatar to host the 2022 tournament.
“Ricardo Teixeira, Nicolas Leoz and co-conspirator #1 were offered and received bribe payments in exchange for their votes in favour of Qatar to host the 2022 World Cup,” reads the indictment.
Teixeira, the former son-in-law of long-time FIFA boss Joao Havelange and ex-head of the Brazilian soccer federation (CBF), was not immediately reachable for comment.