KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTING
— New questions over world football’s pursuit of Mohamed Bin Hammam have been raised by a devastating rebuttal of accusations against him in an Asian Football Confederation report.
Bin Hammam set out his counter-claims during a four-hour meeting in London with representatives of Louis Freeh, the former FBI chief who has been handed a second chance by international football authorities to ‘nail’ the Qatari once and for all.
The past week’s events, including an arrest in Malaysia, represent the latest twists and turns in the saga sparked last year by Bin Hammam’s threat to overturn the status quo within world football when he campaigned to oust long-serving Sepp Blatter as FIFA president at its 2011 Congress in Zurich.
In fact, two days before the election Bin Hammam – then president of the AFC and a FIFA vice-president – withdrew after being suspended from all football pending an inquiry into allegations of bribery along the campaign trail. Blatte, now unopposed, was duly re-elected for a fourth term in office which expires in 2015.
Back in Zurich, just over two months later, Bin Hammam was banned from football for life by FIFA’s executive committee, on the recommendation of an ethics committee [whose credibility has since been undermined by a major restructuring devised and proposed by independent governance expert Mark Pieth].
This past July Bin Hammam’s suspension was overturned by the Court of Arbitration for Sport despite the late, sensationalist revelations of an AFC audit accusing him of misusing funds and raising insinuations about management of the core media rights contract with Singapore-based World Sports Group.
The most widely-spread and damning allegations suggested that Bin Hammam had withdraw AFC funds for personal use, accusations he has denied.
Eyebrows were raised by the timing of the apparent leak of the audit, commissioned by the AFC from PricewaterhouseCoopers. Its content appeared in media hands not only before it had been even put before the AFC executive but days before the three-man CAS panel was due to deliver its verdict on Bin Hammam’s appeal against his FIFA ban.
Immediately after the CAS decision a tired Bin Hammam said that, having cleared his name, he intended to walk away from football. However the last-minute appearance of the PwC report forced him to change his mind because it prompted further suspension orders against him by both the AFC and FIFA.
Any calculation by opponents that the PwC audit would finish off Bin Hammam have backfired; it has only provoked him into fighting on, once more, to try to clear his name.
While new FIFA investigator Michael Garcia has demanded further evidence from Caribbean federations about an infamous election rally in Port of Spain last year so Bin Hammam has commissioned, from London-based Smith & Williamson, his own investigation into the PwC audit.
This writer understands that this takes apart the PwC effort virtually line by line, clause by clause, paragraph by paragraph and assesses the AFC-commissioned original as having “drawn unjustified conclusions based on an incomplete investigation.”
The commissioning of the PwC report, its insinuations and the timing of its release have all been challenged by Bin Hammam.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, reports from Kuala Lumpur quoted the AFC’s legal counsel, Mohamad Bustaman Abdullah, as saying that a man had been arrested over the alleged theft of documents from the confederation’s local headquarters.
Bustaman said that Tony Kang, husband of Amelia Gan – the AFC’s finance director under Bin Hammam – had surrendered to police and would appear in court on related charges.
Both Bin Hammam and the AFC have variously and separately complained about the disappearance of files detailing “personal payments” from his office.
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