Fifa presidential candidate Sheikh Salman refutes claim he misused funds

Fifa presidential candidate Sheikh Salman Ebrahim Al Khalifa has denied claims by British MP Damian Collins that he misappropriated funds from Fifa's Goal project to bankroll his own election campaign.
Fifa presidential candidate Sheikh Salman Ebrahim Al Khalifa has denied claims by British MP Damian Collins that he misappropriated funds from Fifa's Goal project to bankroll his own election campaign.PHOTO: REUTERS

ZURICH • British Member of Parliament Damian Collins used parliamentary privilege on Tuesday to accuse Fifa presidential candidate Sheikh Salman Ebrahim Al Khalifa of taking development project funds to finance an election bid.

The claims, made in a speech in the UK House of Commons, were swiftly rejected by Salman, who is one of five candidates for the top job in world football.

Conservative MP Collins, a supporter of the campaign group "New Fifa Now" made the allegations relating to Salman's attempt in 2009 to be elected to the Fifa executive committee and his successful election to the presidency of the Asian Football Confederation in 2013.

Collins, who made his allegations in the form of a petition in the House Of Commons, alleged Salman had misused Fifa funds meant for developing football.

"In August 2009 Sheikh Salman, then Bahrain FA president, was accused of using Fifa-financed sports development budgets to fund his unsuccessful campaign for Fifa executive committee election," he told parliament. "In a leaked letter received by the Al Bilad newspaper it was claimed that Sheikh Salman had spent upwards of 850,000 dinars (S$3.18 million) on his campaign and that some of his money had come from Fifa- financed football development projects," said Collins, citing two Fifa "Goal programmes".

His claims could not be immediately verified. Fifa declined to comment and Fifa's ethics committee did not immediately respond to a request for comment. "After Fifa requested urgent information from the Bahrain FA regarding the misappropriation of funds, Sheikh Salman did not comment until early December 2009, at which point he denied those claims. However, the Bahrain FA did not dispute the contents of the leaked documents," said Collins, without naming which documents he was referring to.

The Bahrain Football Association did not immediately respond to an e-mailed request for comment. A statement from Salman's team flatly denied that any Goal money had been spent on his campaign.

The Salman camp said Fifa's Goal project money for Bahrain had been spent on projects agreed with the Zurich-based governing body and that "funding was paid to the third-party contractors who carried out the projects" and was documented with Fifa.

"For the avoidance of doubt, Sheikh Salman's 2009 election campaign was funded entirely from his own pocket," read a statement.

His camp also rejected Collins' claim that the Olympic Council of Asia may have offered inducements to vote for Salman in the 2013 AFC election.

Fifa will vote tomorrow for a new president. The other candidates are Swiss Gianni Infantino, Frenchman Jerome Champagne, Jordanian Prince Ali Al Hussein and South African Tokyo Sexwale. Infantino voiced confidence on Tuesday he would get more than the 105 votes needed to win the election.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 25, 2016, with the headline 'Sheikh Salman rebuts claim he misused funds'. Print Edition | Subscribe