Massive Blow for FIFA Corruption Clean-up as CAS Overturns Bin Hammam Life Ban
July 19, 2012
Mohamed Bin Hammam still remains suspended by the Asian Football Confederation (Getty)
(WFI) Sepp Blatter's mission to clean-up FIFA has been dealt a humiliating blow after the Court of Arbitration for Sport overturned Mohamed Bin Hammam's lifetime ban from FIFA, citing "insufficient evidence".
The Qatari was originally banned by FIFA last July following an ethics investigation that found him guilty of offering $40,000 bribes to Caribbean Football Union officials to buy their votes in his quest to unseat Blatter from football's top job.
A FIFA ethics committee report found him guilty of bribery last summer, pointing to "compelling evidence".
But the shock CAS ruling raised concerns that the FIFA investigation "was not complete or comprehensive enough to fill the gaps in the record".
FIFA's lifetime ban allowed Blatter to stand unopposed in the June presidential election. The CAS decision makes a mockery of the ethics probe that led to Bin Hammam's sanction, which now merits fresh scrutiny.
Unsurprisingly, there has been no direct response from Blatter, who has been keenly using his Twitter page to trumpet new developments in his reform program ahead of official announcements. For him, the annulment of the Qatari's ban is a serious setback as he attempts to revamp the image of world football's governing body and rescue his own reputation following the worst corrupion crisis in the federation's 108-year history.
A CAS statement said that it had not found Bin Hammam innocent, only that it was a situation of “case not proven” because of a lack of evidence.
However, the verdict added that it was "more likely than not" that Bin Hammam was the source of the monies that were brought into Trinidad and Tobago and eventually distributed at the meeting.
Why was ban annulled?
The CAS panel established that former CONCACAF president Jack Warner, who quit FIFA last summer after being embroiled in the bribery scandal, arranged for CFU officials to be offered "a personal gift" and said that it was from the Caribbean federation. But he later changed his story, telling delegates that the gift was from Bin Hammam.
"However, the CAS Panel has not been presented with any direct evidence to link Mr Bin Hammam with the money’s physical presence in Trinidad and Tobago, its transfer in a suitcase or otherwise to Mr Warner, and its subsequent offer to the CFU members for the purpose of inducing them to vote for Mr Bin Hammam," the CAS statement said.
The CAS ruling emphasised that “no efforts were made to trace the source of [the] banknotes that were photographed, and recognises that it is possible to infer that the failure of Mr. Bin Hammam to carry out that relatively simple exercise in the course of these proceedings might be explained by the fact that it would have confirmed that he was the source”.
The CAS panel stated that “this conclusion should not be taken to diminish the significance of its finding
Deputy chairman of the previous FIFA Ethics Committee, Namibia's Petrus Damasebat, at the press conference where Bin Hammam's life ban was announced on July 23, 2011 (Getty)
that it is more likely than not that Mr. Bin Hammam was the source of the monies that were brought into Trinidad and Tobago and eventually distributed at the meeting by Mr Warner, and that in this way, 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.
"This is all the more so at the elevated levels of football governance at which individuals such as Mr. Bin Hammam and Mr. Warner have operated in the past."
The CAS said that it was "not making any sort of affirmative finding of innocence in relation to Mr Bin Hammam.
"The panel is doing no more than concluding that the evidence is insufficient in that it does not permit the majority of the panel to reach the standard of comfortable satisfaction in relation to the matters on which the appellant was charged.
"It is a situation of “case not proven”, coupled with concern on the part of the panel that the FIFA investigation was not complete or comprehensive enough to fill the gaps in the record.”
The CAS panel was composed of Spain's José Maria Alonso, Philippe Sands from the UK and Belgium's Romano Subiotto.
FIFA issued a statement noting that the CAS verdict had shown Bin Hammam had not been proven innocent and pointed to the fact that if its new two-chamber ethics committee provided any fresh evidence of corruption "it would be possible to re-open the case".
The statement also acknowledged the decision by the Asian Football Confederation earlier this week to open a disciplinary case against Bin Hammam and to provisionally suspend him from football over after an internal audit that alleged violations of the football body's statutes, disciplinary code and code of ethics.
"At FIFA level, all relevant files will now be handed over to the new FIFA Ethics Committee, which will start operating on 25 July 2012," FIFA said.
"The FIFA Ethics Committee will then decide based on the reports and evidence presented to it if any action is required to be taken against Mohamed Bin Hammam."
AFC Notes Ruling
The Asian Football Confederation issued a short statement in response to the CAS ruling.
"As far as AFC is concerned Mr Bin Hammam remains under provisional suspension by AFC vide an AFC Disciplinary Committee decision on July 16, 2012, for 30 days for possible violations of the AFC Statutes, AFC Disciplinary Code and AFC Code of Ethics," it said.
By INSIDER editor Mark Bisson
Your best source of news about the global football business is World Football INSIDER
Get Free WFI news bulletins Click Here
(Copyright 1992 - 2013, all rights reserved. The information in this report may not be published, excerpted, or otherwise distributed in print or broadcast without the express prior consent of World Football Insider and Around the Rings, Inc.)