Sport

Audit says Bin Hammam enriched himself

Saturday, July 21, 2012    

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DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — The man in charge of Asian soccer, once a candidate to oust FIFA president Sepp Blatter as the sport's worldwide leader, enriched himself and handed out hundreds of thousands of dollars to friends and relatives, according to an audit obtained by The Associated Press.

Mohamed bin Hammam, a 63-year-old Qatari whose life ban from football was overturned in a sports court earlier this week, is accused of using the Asian Football Confederation bank accounts to conduct his private affairs.

The audit was prepared by the international accounting firm of PricewaterhouseCoopers and dated July 13. A copy of the report was obtained by the AP; its contents were confirmed by two people with direct knowledge of the report who spoke on condition of anonymity because it hasn't been made public.

The report offered rare details of the usually secretive accounts of not-for-profit football bodies handling hundreds of millions of dollars. And it portrayed a man who was running Asian soccer like a family business, negotiating contracts on his own and mingling his personal and AFC bank accounts.

The audit was especially critical of bin Hammam's use of AFC accounts for personal expenses, although there was no evidence of direct payments to bin Hammam.

"It is highly unusual for funds (especially in the amounts detailed here) that appear to be for the benefit of Mr Hammam personally, to be deposited to an organisation's bank account," the audit said.

He received millions of dollars from individuals linked to AFC contracts, according to the audit, and spent tens of thousands of dollars on items like a honeymoon for his son and dental work, haircuts and cash payments for his family.

It found he spent $700,000 from AFC coffers on himself and his family, including $100,000 for his wife, $10,000 on a Bulgari watch for himself and nearly $5,000 for his daughter's cosmetic dentistry.

Payments were also made to Asian, African and Caribbean football officials, including $250,000 to Jack Warner, the longtime strongman of Caribbean football.

"The arrangement with Mr Hammam's use of the sundry debtors account is, in our view, highly unusual and reflects poor governance," the audit said. "This use by Mr Hammam of the sundry debtors account continued even after the external auditor's recommended that it be stopped. Our review indicates that it was common belief that this account was for Mr Hammam personally and all funds flowing through it were his personal monies.

"We question why Mr Hammam would conduct his personal financial transactions through the AFC's bank accounts when the documents we have seen indicate that he already has several personal bank accounts in various countries," the audit said.

The Asian governing body, which he has led since 2002 was advised to seek "legal advice in respect of... whether the actions of Mr Hammam, and other parties identified in this report, constitute criminal and/or civil breaches." Bin Hammam was suspended for 30 days by the AFC following receipt of the report last week.

Bin Hammam was not available for comment. His United States lawyer said the allegations were a FIFA tactic to block his return to world football.

"If there were ever any question about the political motives behind FIFA's vendetta against Mr Bin Hammam, it has been answered by the outrageous and baseless new charges that FIFA and AFC are bringing against him," lawyer Eugene Gulland said in a statement.

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