Bin Hammam to appeal against FIFA life ban

ZURICH, (Reuters) – Mohamed Bin Hammam, the Asian  soccer chief who was due to challenge Sepp Blatter for the FIFA  presidency last month, was banned for life by football’s ruling  body yesterday for his part in a cash-for-votes scandal.

The 62-year-old Qatari, who has been on FIFA’s executive  committee since 1996, vowed to appeal against the suspension. He  said he was innocent and the case against him was built upon  “lies by senior FIFA officials”.

A FIFA ethics committee launched an investigation following  allegations that Bin Hammam, a multi-millionaire businessman,  had tried to buy the votes of Caribbean Football Union  (CFU)officials ahead of the presidential election on June 1.

After a two-day hearing at FIFA headquarters Bin Hammam was  found to have broken seven articles of the organisation’s ethics  code including one on bribery, acting head of the committee  Petrus Damaseb told reporters.

Mohamed Bin Hammam

Former CONCACAF president Jack Warner, a major FIFA  powerbroker, resigned in June after he was also accused of  wrongdoing at the same meeting in Port of Spain, Trinidad, on  May 10-11, the latest scandal to hit soccer’s beleaguered  governing body.
Like Bin Hammam, Warner was provisionally banned pending the  ethics committee investigation into allegations that Caribbean  officials were handed $40,000 each in brown envelopes as a  sweetener.

Bin Hammam, Asian Football Confederation (AFC) president  since 2002, pulled out of the FIFA presidential race on May 29,  leaving Blatter to be re-elected unopposed for a fourth term  three days later.

Damaseb also said two CFU officials, Debbie Minguell and  Jason Sylvester, would be banned for one year and recommended  further investigations “into conduct of others who attended the  meeting of May 10-11”.

Chuck Blazer, the FIFA executive committee member whose  report led to the ethics committee probe, was warned for  comments he made at a CONCACAF (Confederation of North, Central  American and Caribbean Association Football) meeting in Zurich  on May 30.

None of the four accused attended the two-day hearing in  Zurich but Bin Hammam was represented by his lawyers.

    FINDINGS REJECTED     
“He rejects the findings and maintains his innocence,” said  Eugene Gulland, one of the Qatari’s representatives. “He will  continue to fight his case through the legal routes that are  open to him. “He has gone on record and maintains the FIFA ethics  committee was going to find against him whatever the validity of  the case he presented to them.

“The FIFA ethics committee has apparently based its decision  on so-called circumstantial evidence which our case has clearly  demonstrated was bogus, and founded on lies told by senior FIFA  officials,” added Gulland.

“We have not shared our evidence, which is compelling, with  the media and FIFA has done exactly the opposite. There appears  to be selective and continual leaking of documentation … to  the media to influence public opinion and to create bias.”

One ethics committee report was leaked immediately after  Warner’s resignation and said it had found “comprehensive,  convincing and overwhelming” evidence that the Trinidadian  official and Bin Hammam were involved in attempted bribery.

FIFA was also rocked last year when two executive committee  members were banned after allegedly offering to sell votes in  the 2018 and 2022 World Cup hosting race to undercover newspaper  reporters.

Blatter has promised “zero tolerance” against corruption and  vowed to set up a new “solutions committee” to act as a watchdog  although he raised eyebrows by naming former U.S. Secretary of  State Henry Kissinger and Spanish tenor Placido Domingo as  possible members. The 75-year-old Swiss has recently turned against members of  his executive committee, saying they are chosen by their  respective confederations and he cannot vouch for them.

Blatter was in Argentina, for Sunday’s Copa America final  between Uruguay and Paraguay, when the life ban was announced.
Qatar is to host the 2022 World Cup and Bin Hammam’s  compatriots said his legacy would live on.

“It’s sad for all of Qatar, not just Mohamed,” said Mohammed  Johar, 50, head of logistics for the Al Jazeera sports   channel in Doha. “We grew up together, he was president of my  club, Al Rayyan.

“From the beginning I never thought these charges were true.  He faced problems and tried to solve them honestly.
“The people will remember him very well, not just in Qatar  but in Asia and Africa as well,” added Johar.

Bin Hammam must wait several weeks for a full report of the  ethics committee’s sentence before he can start his appeal.
He will first have to go to FIFA’s appeals committee and can  then take his case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

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