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Qatar, Bribery, FIFA and the World Cup

Author: Niall Hearty  14 September 2023
2 min read

Niall Hearty of financial crime specialists Rahman Ravelli assesses revelations about Qatari spending to secure the 2022 World Cup.

Court documents have started to reveal precisely how much money Qatar spent in order to win the right to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

A court filing - made by a US-based organisation fighting a subpoena from an American lobbyist who had been hired by Qatar - shows that the Middle East state transferred millions to FIFA committee members. The Qatar National Bank (QNB) sent these funds directly to the committee members – who were in charge of voting for the host nation for each football World Cup, which is held every four years.

A report by US magazine Tablet, states that documents from QNB list names, bank account numbers, and exact amounts of money that were transferred. The magazine also reports that approximately $330 million went to 22 people between February of 2009 and December 2010. Voting to choose the World Cup hosts for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups was held on 2 December 2010.

Qatar gained enough votes to beat a challenge from the United States to be the 2022 World Cup host. It gained 14 votes in the final round of voting, whereas the US only received eight as the host country for the 2022 competition. Tablet says the majority of the transferred money went to 14 FIFA members.

Stages

Payments to the FIFA members were made in two stages. Qatar sent a portion of the money before the voting was held. The remaining part of the funds was sent after Qatar and gained enough votes to win the vote to host the World Cup 2022. Many of those receiving these bribery payments did so using offshore banking accounts – a move that can reduce the potential for payments to be scrutinised.

The documents that have been released indicate that the largest payments made by Qatari officials went to Vitaly Mutko, Russia’s former minister for sport. Mutko is alleged to have received payments totalling more than $100 million in combined payments. An initial $72.6 million transfer was made to him in 2009, followed by a $34 million transfer after the December 2010 voting to choose the World Cup 2022 host. The International Olympic Committee banned Mutko in 2017.

Banned

Despite Qatar denying allegations of impropriety in the voting to determine the hosts of the 2022 World Cup, a large number of FIFA executive committee members have been banned or indicted over allegations of corruption and wrongdoing. The ex-FIFA president Sepp Blatter has himself admitted that “the choice of Qatar was a mistake”. 

This type of corruption is not new: former FIFA executive committee member Charles Blazer has acknowledged that he received bribes in connection with Morocco’s and South Africa’s bids for the 1998 and 2010 World Cups. Clearly a lot needs to be done to repair the reputational damage associated with the awarding of recent World Cups.

Deep-rooted structural change to voting processes may not come easy to FIFA, which is a very large organisation whose executive committee (also known as FIFA Council) has 37 members. Perhaps a smaller executive committee would be a welcome start, with members being elected rather than appointed by their federations. What is clear is that more oversight would assist with the organisation’s accountability and be a large step towards restoring its severely tarnished reputation.

 

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Niall Hearty

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Niall has a wealth of corporate crime expertise and an ability to coordinate global bribery and corruption cases. His achievements in such investigations have made him a logical choice for corporate clients.

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