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By A Web Design
19 Juillet 2012
● World football was thrown into chaos on Thursday after a court overturned Mohamed Bin Hammam's lifetime ban - raising fresh questions about Sepp Blatter's unopposed election as FIFA president.
The ruling by the Court of Arbitration for Sport is a huge embarrassment to FIFA, whose ethics committee imposed the lifetime ban one year ago. The 63-year-old Qatari has been not proven innocent by CAS, instead the appeal has been upheld on the grounds of insufficient evidence. FIFA can bring fresh proceedings against Bin Hammam if the revamped ethics committee has any new evidence.
Muhammad Bin Hammam © Reuters
Bin Hammam always claimed the FIFA action against him was retribution for having challenged Blatter for the presidency, and on Thursday hailed the decision but said he had no interest any longer in standing again. He told BBC World Service: "I promise you I will not quit until I clear my name. "I have one aim, one mission. one target and that is to clear my name and then I say goodbye."
Bin Hammam was found guilty by FIFA's ethics committee last year of paying bribes to Caribbean Football Union officials at a meeting in Trinidad last year while campaigning against Blatter for the FIFA presidency. Jack Warner, who quit as FIFA vice-president after the scandal broke, told officials gifts of 40,000 US dollars each and totalling around one million US dollars had come from Bin Hammam.
Bin Hammam is still subject to a 30-day temporary suspension by the Asian Football Confederation - the body of which he was president - which has been extended worldwide by FIFA. The suspension followed an audit by Pricewaterhouse Coopers (PWC) that centred on contract negotiations and payments to and from AFC bank accounts during Bin Hammam's presidency. He was alleged to have breached a number of AFC regulations including relating to gifts and bribery.
The PWC report, a copy of which has been seen by the Press Association, raises concerns over broadcast deals signed by Bin Hammam on behalf of the AFC with Al Jazeera and World Sports Groups. It also states in 2008 "significant payments (totalling 250,000 US dollars) have also been made to Mr Jack Warner for which no reason has been provided". Sources close to Bin Hammam say the allegations are further attempts to tarnish his name.
The CAS panel made its decision by a 2:1 majority and said in its ruling there was no direct evidence to link Bin Hammam with the money's physical presence in Trinidad. It also questioned why no attempt had been made to trace the banknotes that were photographed. FIFA had hired former FBI director Louis Freeh's firm to investigate the Trinidad payments. The CAS panel added that "it is more likely than not that Mr Bin Hammam was the source of the monies" and that "his conduct, in collaboration with and most likely induced by Mr Warner, may not have complied with the highest ethical standards that should govern the world of football and other sports". CAS stressed it was not finding Bin Hammam innocent but that the case was "not proven".
FIFA expressed their concern at the CAS ruling, and said all files will now be handed over to the new ethics committee, which will decide if any new action is to be taken against Bin Hammam. It is almost a year to the day since FIFA's ethics committee found 63-year-old Bin Hammam guilty of conspiring to pay bribes and issued the lifetime ban. He had been a growing force in international football and displayed his power by being influential in Qatar's runaway victory in the contest to host the 2022 World Cup.
Some observers had believed he was on course to defeat Blatter until, less than a month before the election, he was accused of paying around one million US dollars to officials from 25 Caribbean nations. Witnesses testified that after being addressed by Bin Hammam at a specially-arranged meeting in Trinidad, officials were invited to pick up cash gifts of 40,000 US dollars per association contained in brown envelopes.
The witnesses stated that former FIFA vice-president Warner had told officials afterwards the money had come from Bin Hammam. Warner resigned from FIFA a month later and refused to speak to investigators. Blatter went on to be elected unopposed after Bin Hammam pulled out of the presidential race, though Football Association chairman David Bernstein unsuccessfully asked the FIFA Congress to postpone the election to allow a new challenger to come forward.