Secret payments of more than $5 million to key football officials won Qatar the needed numbers in the executive committee (Exco) of the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) to host the World Cup in 2022.

A special investigation by the Sunday Times Insight team – and also reported today by the BBC – reveals that “millions of documents” leaked by a FIFA insider to the newspaper “expose how Qatar’s astonishing victory in the race to secure the right to host the 2022 tournament was sealed by a covert campaign by Mohammad bin Hammam, the country’s top football official.”

At the centre of this scandal is Mohammad bin Hammam, a Qatari construction billionaire and football official, who plotted and funded the operation that won Qatar the bid.

Mr. Bin Hammam was banned from football for life in July 2011 on allegations of bribery, reinstated a year later, and then issued with a second life ban by FIFA in December 2012 for “conflicts of interest” when he was president of the Asian Football Confederation.

However, in December 2010, when the bids for 2022 were put to the vote by FIFA’s executive committee (Exco), and went in favour of Qatar, he was president of the Asian Football Confederation and a vice-president of FIFA.

According to the Sunday Times, Mr. Bin Hammam’s private company paid up to £ 200,000 into accounts controlled by the presidents of 30 African football associations, who then directed the vote of the four voting members of the Exco from the African continent in Qatar’s favour.

Mr. Bin Hammam is accused of hosting lavish parties and junkets for the African football association presidents; putting £ 1.6 m into the bank account of the Exco member from Trinidad and Tobago; making payments to the Oceania Exco member; and channelling FIFA funds to the football association of Ivory Coast in return for that country’s Exco member’s support for Qatar.

The official Qatar bid committee has denied the Sunday Times allegations. It has always maintained that Mr. Bin Hammam is an “entirely separate” individual, who had nothing to do with the Qatar bid.