FIFA executive committee members Mohamed Bin Hammam and Jack Warner have criticized provisional bans imposed on them by the ruling body’s ethics committee over alleged bribery attempts.
Bin Hammam questioned the independence of the ethics committee, which also ruled that FIFA president Joseph Blatter had no case to answer.
Blatter is now clear to run unopposed in Wednesday’s election for the FIFA presidency. Bin Hammam, who had been the only candidate standing against Blatter, withdrew his candidacy early on Sunday.
Blatter is scheduled to hold a press conference Monday at 6 pm (1600 GMT) at the FIFA headquarters in Zurich following a meeting of the executive committee.
Bin Hammam said the ethics committee did not find “evidence sufficient to convict me” and that as a result “I should have been given the benefit of doubt but instead, I have been banned from all football activities.” The Qatari, president of the Asian Football Confederation, said that in the press conference following Sunday’s ethics committee decision FIFA general secretary Jerome Valcke “made clear that he is the one who has the influence in this committee.” He added: “I’m very disappointed about the way the status of the proceeding has been presented at the media conference. I am expecting that this will continue. This is not how I understand fair play. I’m reserving all my rights.” Warner, a FIFA vice-president and president of the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF), said in a statement: “The decision to suspend me is an abuse of the process and achieves no real purpose as stated in the decision and again demonstrates the bias of this enquiry.
“I intend to say a lot more on this matter shortly. In the meantime, I will vigorously defend my reputation as well as the reputation of the rest of the Caribbean members.” Warner also said he had been given less than 24 hours to submit a statement for consideration by the five-member committee, and in addition a member from Uruguay did not have a translated version of his or Bin Hammam’s submission.
“This lack of translation services brings into question the issue of due process,” he said. “In addition, FIFA did not have the courtesy to provide me with copies of the allegations before the hearing and only during the hearing were the allegations read to me.” Warner said the complaints made against him were politically motivated and “designed, among other things, to cause serious prejudice and damage to both Mr. Bin Hammam and myself at one of the most critical times for the FIFA”.
Valcke had said on Sunday that there was no reason to postpone Wednesday’s FIFA presidential election which comes amid the biggest corruption crisis in the history of the powerful sports body.
FIFA has opened an investigation into allegations that financial incentives were offered at a May 10-11 meeting of Bin Hammam with Caribbean football leaders in Trinidad.
Bin Hammam and Warner were implicated by FIFA executive Chuck Blazer. Valcke said the initial tip-off about 40,000-dollar cash payments to the meeting members in Warner’s home country of Trinidad came from the Puerto Rico federation.
The payments were allegedly made to secure votes for Bin Hammam in his campaign for the FIFA presidency.
Blatter also appeared before the ethics committee after Bin Hammam claimed he knew about the payments but had not taken action against it — which would also have been a breach of the FIFA ethics codes.
Hammam has said he reimbursed the travel expenses of the 25 officials, but denied cash payments.
FIFA’s ethics committee ruled that Bin Hammam and Warner were being suspended “while the investigation continues, taking into account the gravity of the case and the likelihood that a breach of the FIFA code of ethics and the FIFA disciplinary code has been committed.” Two Caribbean Football Union officials were also suspended.
FIFA is facing its biggest corruption crisis since the Sunday Times alleged last autumn that FIFA executives were ready to accept bribes for votes in connection with the election of the 2018 and 2022 World Cup hosts.
Two executives were suspended and ineligible to vote when Russia landed the 2018 edition and Qatar the 2022 World Cup.
Earlier this month, a British parliamentary committee was told by former FA chairman Lord Triesman that four FIFA executives asked for bribes to support England’s 2018 bid and two were accused of receiving 1.5 million dollars from Qatar’s bid.