ZURICH (Reuters) - Two FIFA executive committee members were banned and fined on Thursday, one for bribery, over allegations they had offered to sell their votes in the contest to host the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.
Four other officials were also banned and fined in an unprecedented move by soccer’s world governing body, which has been shaken by the case and is under huge pressure to show that the contest will be clean and transparent.
Nigerian Amos Adamu was banned from all-soccer related activities for three years and fined 10,000 Swiss francs (£6,331) for breaches of five articles of FIFA’s ethics code including one on bribery.
His fellow executive committee member Reynald Temarii of Tahiti, president of the Oceania Football Confederation, was banned for one year and fined 5,000 Swiss francs for breaching articles on general conduct and loyalty.
The others officials included Slim Aloulou, chairman of the committee that settles disputes between clubs, players and coaches, and the previously disgraced Ismael Bhamjee.
In 2006, Botswana’s Bhamjee was sent home from the World Cup in Germany and subsequently quit the executive committee for selling match tickets at three times their face value.
A further claim by British newspaper The Sunday Times that some bidding countries were guilty of collusion before the December 2 vote in Zurich was dismissed by the ethics committee.
It decided allegations of vote-trading between Spain/Portugal, who are bidding for 2018, and Qatar, who are bidding for 2022, were unfounded.
The decision to ban two executive committee members means only 22, instead of the expected 24, will vote when FIFA chooses the hosts for the two tournaments.
“For as long as I am in the ethics committee, we will have a zero tolerance policy for all violations of standards,” said its chairman Claudio Sulser after a three-day hearing.
“We don’t want cheaters, we don’t want doping, we don’t want abuses to be accepted,” added Sulser, a former Switzerland international.
He added: “The damage caused to FIFA’s image is very great. When one talks of FIFA, there is generally a negative attitude out there, talk of corruption.”
Adamu and Tahiti had been provisionally suspended following allegations by The Sunday Times that they offered to sell their votes to undercover reporters posing as lobbyists for an American consortium.
FIFA said Adamu and Temarii had breached general ethics rules as well as article 9.1 which demands “fiduciary duty” to the sport’s governing body.
Adamu was also found to be in breach of article 11.1 which reads: “Officials may not accept bribes; in other words, any gifts or other advantages that are offered, promised or sent to them to incite breach of duty or dishonest conduct for the benefit of a third party shall be refused.”
Adamu plans to take his case to FIFA’s appeals committee.
“I am profoundly disappointed with the ethics committee’s findings and had honestly believed I would be exonerated of any charges by now,” he said in a statement released by his lawyer and reported by the BBC.
”I am innocent of all the charges levelled against me by the Ethics Committee and I completely refute the decision they have made.
“I will be lodging a full appeal against it with immediate effect.”
He was supported by the Nigerian government.
“In as much as the government does not want to be seen as interfering in football matters, we believe he was not given fair hearing,” Kayode Thomas, spokesman for Nigeria’s Sports Minister, told Reuters from the capital Abuja.
The case has cast a shadow over the race to host the two World Cup tournaments.
Russia and England are bidding to host the 2018 World Cup along with the joint bids from Spain/Portugal and Belgium/Netherlands. Japan, South Korea, Australia and the United States as well as Qatar are candidates for 2022.
FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke confirmed the vote would go ahead with two executive committee members short and said there was almost no chance of changing the controversial decision to choose the two hosts in the same vote.
“Yes, there will be only 22 members for the 2018 and 2022 votes,” he said. “It’s 99 percent certain the executive committee will not spilt the 2018 and 2022 decisions, as was decided from day one.”
Tunisia’s Aloulou -- chairman of FIFA’s dispute resolution chamber and a member of the players’ status committee -- was banned for two years and fined 10,000 Swiss francs.
He was found to have broken rules on general conduct and loyalty and of failing to report evidence of misconduct.
The other three FIFA officials -- Ahongalu Fusimalohi, Amadou Diakite and Bhamjee -- were all found guilty of the same offences, plus bribery.
Fusimalohi, general secretary of the Tonga FA, and Diakite from Mali, a member of the FIFA referees’ committee, were banned for three years and fined 10,000 Swiss francs each.
Bhamjee, an honorary member of the Confederation of African Football (CAF), was banned for four years and fined 10,000 Swiss francs.
Qatar’s bid team welcomed the decision to dismiss the allegations of collusion.
“We welcome today’s announcement... confirming that Qatar 2022 has completely abided by FIFA’s bidding rules and regulations,” bid CEO Hassan Al-Thawadi said in a statement.
”We were always confident of this outcome because we have conducted ourselves throughout the campaign adhering to the highest ethical standards.
Additional reporting by Tume Ahemba in Lagos; Editing by Ken Ferris