FIFA may pull World Cup from Russia and Qatar

Disgraced FIFA president Sepp Blatter who resigned amid rumours of corruption
Disgraced FIFA president Sepp Blatter who resigned amid rumours of corruption

The head of FIFA's audit and compliance committee has reportedly claimed Russia and Qatar could lose the right to host the World Cup if evidence emerges of bribery in the bidding processes.

Over the past two weeks, FIFA has been embroiled in controversy.

In late May, seven FIFA officials were arrested in dawn raids at a hotel in Zurich and were charged by US authorities along with two other FIFA officials and five corporate executives over allegations of racketeering, wire fraud and money-laundering conspiracies spanning 24 years.

Despite the arrests, FIFA president Sepp Blatter was re-elected, but on Tuesday the 79-year-old announced his resignation.

The bidding processes for the 2018 and 2022 World Cup finals were not subject to any charges announced by US authorities, but the FBI's on-going investigation into corruption at the world governing body is reported to be set to put those processes under scrutiny.

Both Russia and Qatar have strenuously denied any wrongdoing. England lost out in the 2018 voting process to Russia, along with combined bids from Spain/Portugal and Holland/Belgium, while Qatar were unexpected 2022 winners ahead of the likes of the United States, South Korea, Japan and Australia.

However, Domenico Scala, who is the independent chairman of FIFA's audit and compliance committee, told Swiss newspaper Sonntagszeitung if anything untoward was uncovered, there could be the most serious of repercussions.

"Should there be evidence that the awards to Qatar and Russia came only because of bought votes, then the awards could be cancelled," he said.

FIFA continues to find itself at the centre of daily revelations over historic corruption.

The South African Football Association (SAFA) has denied claims from FIFA executive committee member Chuck Blazer that it issued bribes to win the vote to host the 2010 World Cup.

American whistleblower Blazer has said he and others took bribes totalling 10million US dollars for South Africa to host the 2010 World Cup and an undisclosed sum for Morocco's unsuccessful bid to host the 1998 tournament, sworn testimony which is contained in a plea bargain published by the US Department of Justice.

SAFA is angered by the reports and believes they tarnish both the reputation of the organisation and some of the country's most prominent personalities.

"We categorically deny that this was a bribe in return for a vote," a SAFA statement read. "It belittles the hard work done by Madiba (Nelson Mandela), Archbishop Tutu, the South African Government and numerous others who sacrificed their time and money and family lives to make our country proud! It tarnishes their images in the most unscrupulous manner."

The then SAFA president Molefi Oliphant sent a letter - obtained by Press Association Sport - in 2008 to FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke saying that 10million US dollars should be administered directly by former FIFA vice-president Jack Warner, who is currently on bail in Trinidad pending extradition to the United States.

The money was intended to support football in the Caribbean through a diaspora legacy programme, SAFA said.

The BBC has alleged that Warner used some of the funds for credit card payments and personal loans and that JTA Supermarkets, a large chain in Trinidad, received 4.86million US dollars from the accounts.

Warner has denied any wrongdoing.

In the three transactions - on 4 January, 1 February and 10 March 2008 - funds totalling 10million US dollars (£6.5million on current exchange rates) from FIFA accounts were received into CONCACAF accounts controlled by Warner.

Trinidad and Tobago sports minister Brent Sancho told the BBC: "He (Warner) must face justice, he must answer all of these questions. Justice has to be served.

"He will have to account, with this investigation, he will have to answer for his actions."

On Wednesday, South Africa's sports minister Fikile Mbalula told a press conference that authorities did not know what had happened to the money.

He said: ''We don't know. We can't account for it. The fact that later they turned gangsters, that is not our problem. We were not sniffer dogs to check everybody's legitimacy.''