By Martyn Ziegler, PA
Friday, 15 July 2011
Bin Hammam was standing as a potential Fifa president before the claims were made
FIFA member Mohamed Bin Hammam refused to speak to investigators or provide his bank records during the probe into allegations he paid cash gifts to Caribbean football officials, according to a report to FIFA’s ethics committee.
The report, by Freeh Group International (FGI) Europe – the private investigative agency owned by ex-FBI chief Louis Freeh – concludes that while there is «no direct evidence» linking Bin Hammam to the offer or payment of cash there is «compelling circumstantial evidence» that the 62-year-old Qatari was the source of the money. Bin Hammam, a FIFA executive committee member and president of the Asian Football Confederation, has been suspended since May 29 on charges of bribery. He denies any wrongdoing.
The Freeh report, a copy of which has been seen by the Press Association, states: «Through his legal counsel, Mr Bin Hammam refused to speak with Investigative Counsel working for the FIFA ethics committee, but expressed his willingness to co-operate with and appear before the FIFA ethics committee.
«Also through his legal counsel, Mr Bin Hammam provided some documents, but refused to provide his banking records for review and said that requested telephone records do not exist. The lone banking record provided was proof of a wire transfer from Mr Bin Hammam to the CFU on April 28, 2011, in the amount of 363,557.98 US dollars.»
That sum was to cover the cost of the Caribbean Football Union (CFU) delegates’ travel and accommodation to a special meeting in Trinidad, which Bin Hammam had agreed to pay.
Seven associations from the CFU have told investigators they were offered or accepted cash gifts of 40,000 US dollars in a room in the Hyatt Regency hotel on May 10 after Bin Hammam had made a presentation about his campaign to be FIFA president.
A witness from an eighth association said he avoided entering the room once he learned that cash was being offered there. A witness from a ninth association, Aruba, did not enter the room and expected a subsequent wire transfer of funds.
The Freeh report will be the basis for next week’s FIFA ethics committee hearing involving Bin Hammam and two officials from the CFU, Debbie Minguell and Jason Sylvester.
Jack Warner, the FIFA vice-president who was charged along with Bin Hammam, will not face the ethics committee after FIFA dropped the investigation into him following his resignation from football activities.
Neither Warner nor Bin Hammam, nor Minguell and Sylvester, co-operated with the investigation, according to the inquiry team.
The Freeh report says witnesses stated Warner told the 25 CFU associations on May 11 that Bin Hammam had provided the cash gifts.
«Several witnesses advised that Mr Warner stated that the cash had originated with Mr Bin Hammam and the cash was given to them at Mr Warner’s suggestion, instead of a more formal gift, such as silver or a plate,» says the report.
It continues: «There is no direct evidence linking Mr Bin Hammam to the offer or payment of money to the attendees of the Trinidad and Tobago meeting.
«However, there is compelling circumstantial evidence, including statements attributed to Mr Warner, to suggest that the money did originate with Mr Bin Hammam and was distributed by Mr Warner’s subordinates as a means of demonstrating Mr Warner’s largesse. «Indeed, the funds were offered to attendees shortly after Mr Bin Hammam’s campaign speech.»
The Freeh report says FIFA should consider charging CFU general secretary Angenie Kanhai after she provided a letter to the Puerto Rican association «explaining the purpose of the cash, so that the attendee could provide an explanation about the origin of the cash to Customs and to the bank». That letter has been sent to the FIFA ethics committee as evidence.
The report also raised questions about Simpaul Travel, a travel agency connected to the Warner family, being used to provide the transport and accommodation for the CFU delegates.
«The involvement of Simpaul Travel in the logistics of the Trinidad and Tobago conference raises the issue of whether Mr Warner may have been the beneficiary of related parties’ transactions,» says the report.
Chuck Blazer, the FIFA member from the United States who first blew the whistle on the scandal, told the investigators that he discussed the 360,000 US dollar cost of the Trinidad conference with Angenie Kanhai.
The report states: «According to Mr Blazer, Ms Kanhai said that she had developed the budget and then ‘doubled the budget at Jack’s request’.»
The evidence accompanying the report also includes a copy of the sheet on which Louis Giskus, the president of the Surinam FA, wrote down the serial numbers of the bills he received in Trinidad.
Surinam and Puerto Rico still have the money in their accounts while they wait for instructions on what to do with it.
The Grenada Football Federation have already spent all but 1,000 dollars of the 40,000 dollars they received, investigators were told.
Bin Hammam did not respond to the Press Association when invited to comment.