Despite Qatar's recent success in securing the hosting rights for the 2022 FIFA World Cup, which surpassed all expectations, suspicions persist regarding the Gulf nation offering bribes totaling millions of dollars to secure the hosting of the world's most popular tournament. This event marked the first time the World Cup was hosted in the Middle East and North Africa region, yet accusations against Qatar remain unresolved.
Leaked documents from Qatar National Bank (QNB) have revealed that the Qatari government paid over $553 million to members of the International Federation of Association Football (FIFA) committee responsible for voting on the host nations for the 2018 and 2022 FIFA World Cup tournaments in late 2010.
These documents, which include names, account numbers, and transaction details, were presented by the Middle East Forum (MEF), an American research organization based in Philadelphia, to the federal court there which is considering an indictment against MEF by a former American lobby group that worked for the Qatari government. This information was disclosed in a recent report by "Tablet" magazine, which featured a collection of leaked confidential banking documents. It's important to note that MEF regularly reports on Qatar's support for Islamic movements in the region.
'Some received more substantial sums than others'.. Leaked documents from Qatar National Bank provide compelling evidence that Qatar offered nearly $550 million in bribes to 22 members of the FIFA committee that ultimately awarded the 2022 World Cup to Doha
"Tablet" magazine deemed the "ethical and legal compromises" made by FIFA for the Qatari government to organize the 2022 World Cup as indicative of corruption and bribery. These compromises include "tolerance of the host country's laws banning homosexuality and the grave violations against migrant workers at stadium construction sites."
The magazine underlines that Qatar's willingness to offer over half a billion dollars in bribes underscores the immense importance placed by the Qatari government on securing the tournament, even in the face of the nation's considerable oil wealth.
What do the documents reveal?
The records of the payments made to the FIFA committee members are detailed in a bank statement from one of Qatar's diplomatic accounts held at QNB in London. During the period spanning from February 2009 to December 2010, this account disbursed a total of around $553 million to roughly 22 individuals. The majority of these funds were directly credited to the accounts of 14 members of FIFA's executive committee, the body responsible for selecting the host nations for the World Cup. Some additional payments were directed to close relatives of committee members.
It's striking that the funds were sent in two installments, both before and after the vote that awarded Qatar the privilege of hosting the tournament in December 2010. Notably, in many cases, these funds were directed to "offshore" financial havens, such as Monaco and Jersey, where the level of scrutiny is notably less stringent.
These documents were subjected to scrutiny by Fiona Marsh, a forensic document analyst, who attested that she found no evidence indicating that these documents were inauthentic. Furthermore, independent groups of unaffiliated investigators have also verified the authenticity of these documents, as reported by "Tablet".
One individual whose name has come under scrutiny is Sheikh Ahmed Al-Fahad Al-Sabah, the Kuwaiti Minister of Sports at the time, who was on the brink of becoming a member of FIFA's executive committee. It was reported that a portion of these funds was transferred to dummy company accounts associated with him and two of his relatives via QNB. Sheikh Ahmed subsequently resigned from all of his football-related positions in April 2017 amidst allegations of corruption.
Qatari bank records unveiled that some of these funds were channeled into three accounts linked to a dummy company affiliated with Sheikh Ahmed Al-Fahad Al-Sabah, who later stepped down from all football-related positions in 2017 amidst corruption allegations
There was a noticeable discrepancy in the sums paid to sway the votes of certain FIFA committee members. For instance, Nicolas Leoz, the former president of the South American Football Confederation (now deceased), received $8.5 million. In contrast, Vitaly Mutko, who served as the Russian Minister of Sports from 2008 to 2016, successfully led Russia's successful 2018 FIFA World Cup bid, and held the position of Deputy Prime Minister from 2016 to 2020, received a staggering $72.6 million, along with a second payment of $34 million.
According to the account ledger from QNB, Charles Chuck Blazer, a member of FIFA's executive committee who voted in favor of granting Qatar the hosting rights for the 2022 World Cup, received a sum of $21.9 million from the Qatari account. This individual, who passed away in 2017 at the age of 72, also admitted to receiving bribes in connection with the bids for hosting the World Cup finals in 1998 and 2010, by Morocco and South Africa respectively.
Harassment of American critics
In a related context, a number of individuals targeted with summons and subpoenas from law firms and pressure groups affiliated with Qatar are accusing the wealthy Gulf emirate and its American lawyers of exploiting the federal court system to intimidate their critics in the United States.
In early 2022, MEF (Middle East Forum) received a summons from Gregory Howard, who was formerly registered as a foreign agent for Qatar. MEF vehemently contests the summons and has recently filed a motion to quash it, asserting that it represents "a form of politically motivated harassment".
MEF has included in the documents submitted to the federal court materials related to broader issues concerning Qatari foreign policy, including account records from Qatar National Bank (QNB). In response to this legal battle, a spokesperson for MEF told Tablet, "We have no comment at this time. We will let the documents speak for themselves."