FIFA suspends officials in World Cup bribery probe

Amos Adamu and Reynald Temarii allegedly offered to sell their votes for funding toward soccer projects

Topics: World Cup,

Two FIFA executive committee members and four lower-ranked officials were provisionally suspended Wednesday in a World Cup vote-selling scandal.

Executive committee members Amos Adamu of Nigeria and Reynald Temarii from Tahiti are barred from all soccer-related duty until the probe ends, said Claudio Sulser, chairman of FIFA’s ethics committee.

Four other lower-ranked officials — Slim Aloulou, Amadou Diakite, Ahongalu Fusimalohi and Ismael Bhamjee — also have been suspended while FIFA investigates whether they breached bidding rules.

The soccer world governing body’s ethics committee also will investigate whether two countries bidding for either the 2018 and 2022 World Cups engaged in collusion.

“Today is a sad day for football and for FIFA,” Sulser said.

FIFA’s ruling executive will select the two World Cup hosts in a Dec. 2 secret ballot in Zurich. The 2018 tournament bidders are England, Russia and joint bids by Belgium-Holland and Spain-Portugal.

FIFA launched investigations after British newspaper The Sunday Times alleged Adamu and Temarii offered to sell their votes for funding toward soccer projects.

Amadu was filmed requesting $800,000 to build four artificial soccer fields in Nigeria, and for the money to be paid to him directly.

“The decision to provisionally suspend these officials is fully justified and should not be put in question,” Sulser said. “The evidence that has been presented to us today has led us to take this provisional measure, as we considered that the conditions were definitely met to take this decision and we deem that it is crucial to protect the integrity of the 2018 and 2022 FIFA World Cup bidding process.

“We are determined to have zero tolerance for any breach of the code of ethics.”

Countries bidding for the 2022 hosting rights are the United States and four Asian confederation countries, Australia, Japan, Qatar and South Korea.

FIFA barred bidders from making agreements with other candidates, and insisted they must act with “integrity, responsibility, trustworthiness and fairness.” FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke issued a reminder of the rules last month after rumors of vote-swapping deals being struck.

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The Sunday Times allegations kicked off a dramatic week as FIFA seeks to maintain the integrity of the bid process.

Temarii, the Oceania Football Confederation president, met FIFA president Sepp Blatter on Sunday and asked to clear his name before the ethics committee.

The 43-year-old former professional player was filmed asking for $2.3 million to fund a soccer academy in Auckland, New Zealand.

“I’m confident about my integrity, but I made a mistake by talking in that way,” Temarii told The Associated Press on Sunday.

The newspaper also quoted Temarii saying backers of two other unidentified bidders offered $10 million to $12 million to Oceania.

FIFA does not have power to fire members of the 24-strong executive because they are elected by their continental bodies.

However, its code of ethics for officials says those who “severely fail to fulfill, or inadequately exercise, their duties and responsibilities, particularly in financial matters, are no longer eligible and shall be removed from office.”

Adamu’s four-year term ends at the Confederation of African Football’s congress on Feb. 23 in Khartoum, Sudan. The 57-year-old former physical education teacher joined FIFA’s executive in 2006, succeeding Ismail Bhamjee from Botswana, who resigned after a ticket scalping scandal at the World Cup in Germany.

Temarii, who has led 11-nation Oceania since 2004, is scheduled for re-election at a Jan. 21-23 congress on his home island.

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