Blatter cleared, Bin Hammam, Warner suspended by FIFA

Blatter cleared, Bin Hammam, Warner suspended by FIFA

FIFA executive Mohamed Bin Hammam and vice president Jack Warner were provisionally suspended by the ethics committee of the ruling football body on Sunday over alleged bribery attempts, dpa reported.

FIFA president Joseph Blatter, by contrast, was cleared from having knowledge of such cash payments which allows him to seek a fourth term in office since 1998 on Wednesday at the FIFA Congress.

Blatter will run unopposed after Bin Hammam withdrew his candidacy overnight before Sunday's hearings.

FIA general secretary Jerome Valcke said there was no reason to postpone the election which comes amid the biggest corruption crisis in the history of the powerful sports body.

"Legally speaking everything is fine and clear. There is no reason to postpone the election," said Valcke.

Namibian judge Petrus Damaseb, who chaired the hearings, said that neither Bin Hammam nor Warner were presumed guilty at this stage in the affair around alleged bribery attempts at a May 10-11 meeting of Bin Hammam with Caribbean football leaders in Trinidad.

But he said the temporary measure was necessary "to remove the potential to interfere" and assure that the "investigation is not compromised."

Damaseb said he expected a ruling by July and Valcke said that an external company will assist in the ongoing probe.

Bin Hammam and Warner were implicated by FIFA executive Chuck Blazer, who presented his evidence to the ethics committee on Sunday. Valcke said the initial tip-off about 40,000-dollar cash payments to the meeting members in Warner's home country of Trinidad came from the Puerto Rico federation.

The Qatari and Asian football leader Hammam said he came up for the travel expenses of the 25 officials, but denied cash payments as he appeared before the five-man ethics panel with legal representation.

Warner issued a written statement while two further implicated - and suspended - CONCACAF staff members did not plead their case.

Blatter, for his part, appeared on his own, according to Dameseb, to defend himself from allegations by Bin Hammam to have known about the alleged bribery but not taken action against it - also a violation of FIFA ethics rules if true.

FIFA is facing its biggest corruption crisis since the Sunday Times alleged last autumn that FIFA executives were ready to accept bribes for votes in connection with the election of the 2018 and 2022 World Cup hosts.

Two executives were suspended and ineligible to vote when Russia landed the 2018 edition and Qatar the 2022 World Cup.

Further allegations were made this year, with a British parliamentary committee being told by former FA chairman Lord Triesman that four FIFA executives asked for bribes to support England's 2018 bid and two were accused of receiving 1.5 million dollars from Qatar's bid.

The campaign allegations against Hammam and Warner added to FIFA's credibility crisis as calls for reform grew even louder - similar to those the International Olympic Committee undertook in the late 1990s in the wake of the Salt Lake City bribes for votes scandal.

"If the perceptions of an organisation is that the organisation is rife with corruption then it is up to the organisation either to demonstrate that it's not or if it finds that it is to take whatever remedial measures are appropriate," former IOC vice-president Richard Pound told the BBC in reference to FIFA.

Like then IOC boss Juan Antonio Samaranch, Blatter may put himself atop a reform process now that Bin Hammam has withdrawn.

"I cannot allow the game that I loved to be dragged more and more in the mud because of competition between two individuals," Bin Hammam said.

"The game itself and the people who love it around the world must come first. It is for this reason that I announce my withdrawal from the presidential election. I will not put my personal ambition ahead of FIFA's dignity and integrity."

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