DUBAI — Former FBI director Louis Freeh has been brought in by the Asian Football Confederation to assist in the corruption investigation of its suspended president Mohamed Bin Hammam in a sign that the probe is intensifying.
AFC acting president Zhang Jilong called on the 46 federations to cooperate with the investigation into allegations that Bin Hammam enriched himself and his family and rewarded supporters with tens of thousands of dollars in cash, among other charges. The allegations were uncovered in an internal audit that resulted in the AFC giving Bin Hammam a 30-day provisional ban last month.
The suspension came three days before the Court of Arbitration threw out a lifetime ban imposed by FIFA against Bin Hammam in an unrelated case, in which he was accused of trying to bribe voters during his 2011 presidential campaign against FIFA President Sepp Blatter.
“We would like to point out that it is crucial that the Freeh Group receive unconditional and unreserved support and cooperation by all AFC officials, bodies, and Member Associations,” Jilong said Monday in a statement. “The proceedings presently relevant are not about incriminating or discrediting certain persons but aim at establishing the truth and, on a broader scale, at safeguarding the integrity and interests of football under the AFC’s jurisdiction.”
Bin Hammam has not spoken about the latest allegations, but his lawyer said they are a FIFA tactic to block his return to world football.
The audit, prepared by the international accounting firm of PricewaterhouseCoopers and dated July 13, claims the 63-year-old Qatari received millions of dollars from individuals linked to AFC contracts during his tenure that dates back to 2002 and spent tens of thousands on items such as a honeymoon for his son and dental work, haircuts and cash payments for his family.
Bin Hammam is accused of spending $700,000 from AFC coffers on himself and his family, including $100,000 for his wife, $10,000 on a Bvlgari watch for himself and nearly $5,000 for his daughter’s cosmetic dentistry. Payments are alleged to have been made to Asian, African and Caribbean football officials, including $250,000 to Jack Warner, the former longtime head of Caribbean football.
The audit found that a contract for commercial rights with World Sports Group and its subsidiary World Sports Football were no-bid contracts that were “considerably undervalued.” A $14 million payment from companies with stakes in WSG, Al-Baraka Investment and Development Co. and International Sports Events Company was made to the AFC for the “personal use of its president,” the report said.
Bin Hammam is also accused of approving several lucrative, no-bid contracts for commercial rights, including one for Qatari-owned Al-Jazeera Satellite Network.
The audit said its review of the AFC accounts found that tens of thousands of dollars in cash were routinely given to federation presidents and their relatives. Most of it went into their personal bank accounts and none of it was for football-related expenses, it said.
The auditors advised the AFC to seek “legal advice in respect of ... whether the actions of Mr. Hammam, and other parties identified in this report, constitute criminal and/or civil breaches.” — AP