SINGAPORE: A local court has ordered veteran journalist and scholar James M Dorsey to reveal his sources for his reporting on an audit of suspended Mohamed Bin Hammam’s management of the Asian confederation’s finances.
The court accepted a demand by World Sports Group to instruct the journalist and scholar to reveal his sources on the grounds that the audit was confidential and that the sources had defamed the company.
The court in a four-hour hearing however stayed its decision pending an appeal by Dorsey’s lawyers, N. Sreenivasan and Sujatha Selvakumar of Straits Law Practice LLC.
They argued that he was not a party to any confidentiality agreement and that if WSG had an issue it should take it up with the AFC to whom the original report was addressed. The lawyers noted further that the code of ethics of journalists inSingaporeas well as in numerous Asian countries, includingMalaysiaandHong Kongshield journalists from revealing sources.
In an affidavit, Dorsey asserted that he believed that WSG’s legal action was an attempt at “indirectly discovering who within the AFC may have breached their confidentiality and also suppress any well meaning or good intended person from coming forward in the future and is seeking to punitively punish those who may have spoken against them.”
WSG has said it applied to the High Court to force Dorsey to reveal his sources with the intention of launching possible defamation or breach of confidence proceedings.
“We want information so we can determine what charges to make and against whom,” WSG lawyer Deborah Barker was quoted as saying by Agence France Presse.
The internal AFC audit conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers charged that Bin Hammam, while president and a FIFA vice-president, had used an AFC sundry account as his personal account, questioned the terms and negotiation procedure of a $1 billion marketing rights agreement between WSG and the AFC and raised questions of $14 million in payments by a WSG shareholder to Bin Hammam prior to the signing of the agreement.
In its report, PwC said that “it is highly unusual for funds (especially in the amounts detailed here) that appear to be for the benefit of Mr Hammam personally, to be deposited to an organization’s bank account. In view of the recent allegations that have surrounded Mr Hammam, it is our view that there is significant risk that…the AFC may have been used as a vehicle to launder funds and that the funds have been credited to the former President for an improper purpose (Money Laundering risk)” or that “the AFC may have been used as a vehicle to launder the receipt and payment of bribes.”
Malaysian police earlier this month arrested the husband of an associate of Bin Hammam on suspicion of helping steal documents related to one of the payments to Bin Hammam from AFC’s head office inKuala Lumpur.
In a July 13 letter to lawyers Shearn Delamore & Co, PWC explicitly left open the possibility that the AFC might share the report with third parties. The report contained a waiver of liability for PwC should the AFC choose to share the report with non-AFC institutions or persons.
Lawyers for FIFA earlier this year sought unsuccessfully to introduce the report in Bin Hammam’s appeal proceedings in the Lausanne-based Court of Arbitration of Sport against the world football body’s banning for life of the Qatari national from involvement on football on charges of bribery.
Bin Hammam is currently under a FIFA suspension pending further investigation of both these allegations and separate charges that he last year sought to bribeCaribbeanfootball officials. Bin Hammam has denied all allegations.
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