Qatar used a slush fund of $5m to bribe FIFA officials to win the 2022 World Cup, according to documents obtained by the UK's The Sunday Times newspaper.
The paper claims that it has uncovered a “bombshell cache of millions of documents… which expose how Qatar’s astonishing victory in the race to secure the right to host the 2022 tournament was sealed by a covert campaign by Mohammed bin Hammam, the country’s top football official.”
Qatar was awarded the tournament in 2010 by FIFA in a decision that provoked widespread disbelief and condemnation, and the country has been dogged by allegations of bribery ever since.
The paper says that Bin Hammam channeled cash payments of up to $200,000 into the bank accounts of the presidents of 30 African football associations. It also alleges that several events were held in Qatar where more cash was handed out. A further $1.6m was paid in bribes to Jack Warner, former vice president of FIFA, the paper alleges - $450,000 of which was paid just before the World Cup vote.
The paper also claims that 25 FIFA delegates received $200,000 in cash after being flown to Malaysia to discuss the bid, and that one FIFA official asked for $232,000 to be sent to his personal bank account.
Bin Hammam himself was kicked out of world football in 2011 after being found guilty of trying to bribe officials in his bid to get elected as FIFA president.
The 2022 World Cup was awarded to Qatar in 2010, the same day that the 2018 tournament was awarded to Russia.
On Saturday, leading UK MP John Whittingdale called on Qatar to be stripped of the tournament. “There is now an overwhelming case that the decision to where the World Cup should be held in 2022 should be run again,” he said.
Last month FIFA boss Sepp Blatter admitted that it was a “mistake” to give Qatar the World Cup due to the extreme heat in the summer.
Legal experts suggest the new evidence could result in Qatar being suspended from the 2022 tournament pending an investigation, or completely thrown out. “There is a precedent for this – back in 1986 Columbia was scrapped as the host nation just months before the event because the stadiums were not deemed suitable. This is still 8 years away, so there would be no legal issues with FIFA deciding to re-run the bidding process.”
Should Qatar be removed, Japan, Australia, the USA and England are all expected to make new bids. Last year, Arabian Business called on Qatar to hand back the World Cup over growing concerns over the summer heat and the number of deaths of labourer working on the infrastructure to host the even.