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Jun 14, 2014

Qatar hits back at 2022 reports

The leaders of Qatar's World Cup have said recent reports and leaks are designed to tarnish their reputations.

Qatar 2022 chiefs have claimed their right to a fair hearing by FIFA's ethics investigator is being undermined.

Michael Garcia, a U.S. lawyer, is investigating the bidding process for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups won by Russia and Qatar respectively, but that has coincided with a number of reports alleging corruption during the bidding by former Qatari FIFA executive committee member Mohamed Bin Hammam.

The Sunday Times has reported Bin Hammam made payments to African football officials, with the newspaper claiming it was in order to win support for Qatar -- although Bin Hammam was also preparing to challenge Sepp Blatter for the FIFA presidency.

A statement on behalf of Qatar's Supreme Committee for 2022 said: "This week the world should be watching Brazil, yet once again the focus will turn to Qatar as the media continues to attack FIFA's decision to award our country the World Cup in 2022.

"This weekend we expect further attacks on Qatar and our successful bid to host the World Cup in 2022. These allegations are baseless and riddled with innuendo designed to tarnish the reputation of Qatar's 2022 Bid Committee.

"The constant stream of allegations that have been released to media outlets on the cusp of our interviews with the chairman of FIFA's Ethics Committee Investigative Chamber do not implicate our bid. They are instead a series of tenuous links that attempt to assume guilt by association.

"The timing of the release of these allegations is no accident, falling in the same week as our interviews with Michael Garcia and a week before meetings of the FIFA Executive Committee and the 2014 FIFA Congress in Brazil. This has become a pattern prior to important dates in the FIFA calendar.

"It should be clear that these leaks are not an attempt to shine light on the 2018/2022 bidding process. They are, instead, a flagrant attempt to prejudice an ongoing independent investigation.

"While Qatar's bid committee has honoured Mr Garcia's request to let the process run its course, our right to a fair hearing has been compromised by certain parties trying to influence Mr Garcia's investigation."

The statement said Qatar strictly adhered to FIFA's bidding rules and regulations. Qatar 2022 has always tried to distance itself from Bin Hammam but the statement accepted there had been a relationship with him.

It added: "Mr Bin Hammam is from Qatar, but he was not a member of Qatar's bid team.

"In fact, we have never denied we had a relationship with Mr Bin Hammam. As a member of the football world and as member of Qatari society, he often crossed paths with influential Qatari citizens, including members of our bid team.

"Further, because Mr Bin Hammam was a member of the Executive Committee, we had to present our plans to him and convince him that our bid was the right choice for the 2022 FIFA World Cup. And as Mr Bin Hammam was also Confederation President and a voting member, it was important for us to maintain a working relationship with him. None of this was improper. We hoped, of course that Mr Bin Hammam would support our bid. But we hoped for the same from every Executive Committee member."

Earlier on Saturday, Germany's most famous football figure Franz Beckenbauer was forced to call off his trip to the World Cup after FIFA confirmed he was not allowed to attend any match in any capacity during his 90-day provisional ban imposed while he is investigated for non-co-operation with Garcia's probe.

Meanwhile, the Sunday Times says it has obtained a security report which rated Qatar as a high risk of a terrorist attack.

The report by Andre Pruis, the South African police chief in charge of security at the 2010 World Cup, rated all the other nine countries bidding for 2018 and 2022 as low to moderate, according to the report.

Prius' report stated: "In view of the risks... Qatar is allocated a risk rating of high. I am of the view that it would be very difficult to deal with a major incident in such an environment without having to cancel the event."

Russia's 2018 World Cup chief executive Alexei Sorokin said they had nothing to fear from Garcia's report.

Speaking in Rio de Janeiro, he told Press Association Sport: "We are not concerned with any report. We have always said the bid was very transparent and within the FIFA principles and ethics rules so we have nothing to be intimidated by."

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