Russia and Qatar reject World Cup bribery claims

Qatar has spent huge amounts of money on the construction of facilities like this stadium in Lusail for the 2022 World Cup. PHOTO: REUTERS
Qatar has spent huge amounts of money on the construction of facilities like this stadium in Lusail for the 2022 World Cup. PHOTO: REUTERS

DOHA • Russia and Qatar hit back at allegations of bribery on Tuesday night after United States prosecutors accused them of paying millions in bribes for the rights to host the 2018 and 2022 World Cup respectively.

According to US Justice Department documents released on Monday, officials of football governing body Fifa received bribes to vote in favour of both countries.

Doha said it "strongly denies the allegations contained within the papers", while Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov insisted Russia "absolutely legally got the right" to stage the World Cup.

The latest allegations were linked to a wide-ranging 2015 corruption scandal that left Fifa in turmoil and led to the downfall of then-president Sepp Blatter.

In the ensuing years, the US government has accused a total of 45 people and various sports companies of more than 90 crimes and of paying or accepting more than US$200 million (S$286 million) in bribes.

But Qatar's Supreme Committee for Delivery refuted the allegations, claiming they "are part of a longstanding case, the subject of which is not the 2018/2022 Fifa World Cup bidding process".

It added: "Despite years of false claims, evidence has never been produced to demonstrate that Qatar won the rights to host the 2022 World Cup unethically or by means that contravened Fifa's strict bidding rules... Any claim to the contrary is baseless and will be fiercely contested."

In a statement, Fifa said: "We supports all investigations into alleged acts of criminal wrongdoing regarding either domestic or international football competitions.

"We will continue to provide full cooperation to law enforcement officials investigating such matters."

While Fifa are taking the allegations very seriously, stripping Qatar of its rights to stage the quadrennial event is "highly improbable", according to The Guardian.

Given the billions of dollars the gas-rich nation has spent in the past decade, it would take "exceptionally solid, proven reasons" to justify a move this late.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 09, 2020, with the headline 'Russia and Qatar reject World Cup bribery claims'. Subscribe