Qatar and Russia deny allegations of bribery surrounding World Cup bids
(CNN) — The US Department of Justice (DOJ) isn’t letting up on its investigation into corruption in soccer.
Its latest indictment filed in US District Court in March was made public this week, alleging that bribes were accepted by top officials ahead of the votes that allocated Russia and Qatar as respective hosts of the 2018 and 2022 FIFA World Cups.
Both countries were granted host status in 2010 — Russia ahead of a bid from England and Qatar ahead of the US.
Qatari officials “strongly deny” the allegations, while Russia “categorically rejects” that bribes were accepted.
“Despite years of false claims, evidence has never been produced to demonstrate that Qatar won the rights to host the FIFA World Cup 2022 unethically or by means that contravened FIFA’s strict bidding rules,” said a statement sent to CNN by Qatar’s Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy (SC), which oversees planning of the 2022 World Cup.
“The SC maintains that it strictly adhered to all rules and regulations for the 2018/2022 FIFA World Cup bidding process and any claim to the contrary is baseless and will be fiercely contested.”
Qatar has faced strong criticism since being awarded the right to host the World Cup, including for its human rights record and use of migrant workers to construct new stadiums. Qatari officials have consistently defended the country’s record on both issues.
Russian officials also deny the latest bribery claims.
“We have read media reports and we cannot understand what it is all about,” said presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov according to Russian news agency TASS.
“Russia was granted the right to host the world championship on an absolutely legal basis and it has nothing to do with some kind of bribery, which we categorically reject.”
The DOJ’s long-standing probe into corruption within the sport saw 16 FIFA officials face criminal charges in 2015, which included racketeering, money laundering and wire fraud.
A statement from FIFA said it “supports all investigations into alleged acts of criminal wrongdoing regarding either domestic or international football competitions and will continue to provide full cooperation to law enforcement officials investigating such matters.
“FIFA is closely following these investigations and all related developments in the legal processes ongoing in the United States and other parts of the world.
“It is important to point out that FIFA has itself been accorded victim status in the US criminal proceedings and senior FIFA officials are in regular contact with the US Department of Justice.
“Following the latest indictment, FIFA will ask the DOJ for further information on these matters.
“The FIFA Ethics Committee has already imposed sanctions, including life bans, on football officials mentioned in this process. So far as FIFA is concerned, should any acts of criminal wrongdoing by football officials be established, the individuals in question should be subject to penal sanctions.”