Former FC Barcelona exec accused of taking bribes to help Qatar get votes as 2022 World Cup host

In this photo taken on June 13, 2013, then FC Barcelona president Sandro Rosell reacts during a news conference near Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona, Spain. Rosell is being accused by Spanish authorities of having accepted bribes to help Qatar win votes to host the 2022 World Cup. (Reuters file photo)
Updated 19 July 2017
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Former FC Barcelona exec accused of taking bribes to help Qatar get votes as 2022 World Cup host

BRASILIA: The former president of the FC Barcelona football club in Spain, Sandro Rosell, is being accused by Spanish authorities of having accepted bribes of €30 million ($34.2 million) allegedly paid by Qatar for him to pass on to African members of the International Football Federation (FIFA). In turn, several African football associations voted for Qatar to host the 2022 World Cup.
The Spanish government’s Economic and Fiscal Crime Unit (EFCU) and the National Police Corps concluded their investigation into these illegal acts the day after Rosell was arrested last May, according to the El Nacional newspaper of Catalonia. Rosell and his wife, Marta Pineda, were arrested on May 23 by the EFCU in an operation against money laundering. Three more suspects were arrested on the same day. Police believe that Rosell and his associates laundered €15 million by using fictitious companies in various tax havens. This income was from the sale of the image rights of the national Brazilian soccer team.
The authorities froze €10 million in bank deposits and barred the sale of more than 50 pieces of real estate totaling more than €25 million in value, according to El Nacional.
More worryingly, Rosell is believed to have used his firm Rosell Bonus Sports Marketing to collect €30 million between 2007 and 2014, which was then funneled to various African countries whose presidents of their respective football federations then voted for Qatar to host the 2022 World Cup.
The police report, according to the Cronica Global news site, linked Sandro Rosell “with the alleged plot of fraudulent votes for the aforementioned election of Qatar as the site of the World Cup 2022, which is being investigated by the Swiss judicial authorities.”
FIFA’s world headquarters are in Zurich, Switzerland.
The report, which was seen by Cronica Global, says that the alleged “participation of Rosell in this bribery scheme is strengthened by other details throughout the document such as an invoice issued by Rosell to the Qatar 2022 World Cup Bid Committee on Dec. 29, 2009, in the amount of €499,891, for consultancy services.”
US authorities have also been investigating Rosell, according to Cronica Global, asking Spanish authorities to provide them with details of money transfers between Rosell’s bank accounts in Spain and those he has in the US. These transfers would be related to the collection of illegal commissions and laundering of bribes paid to executives of FIFA for the sale of football rights.
The US interest in all this stems from the fact that several American cities lost out to Qatar for the right to host the 2022 World Cup.
Close associates of Rosell admitted to Cronica Global that he had worked on various projects in the past for Qatar, but insisted that the fees Rosell collected were legal and declared to the Spanish Treasury.


Hundreds of jobs axed in PLO cutback

Updated 36 min 6 sec ago
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Hundreds of jobs axed in PLO cutback

  • Among the departments to be axed from the PLO are social affairs, military, Jerusalem, sports, youth and the diaspora
  • Most of the PNC’s budget goes to pay salaries to staff who have little work to do

AMMAN: Hundreds of staff who are paid salaries but do little work will lose their jobs in a major downsizing of the Palestine Liberation Organization. 

The restructuring is aimed at ending the duplication of tasks by the PLO and the Palestinian government, and reducing the size of the 700-member Palestine National Council, which is expected to lose half its staff and half its budget. 

Among the departments to be axed from the PLO are social affairs, military, Jerusalem, sports, youth and the diaspora. Those that deal with refugees, planning, culture, media and the national fund will remain.

“Why do we need staff and offices in the PLO for such areas as social affairs and education, when we have major ministries in the government that are focusing on these areas?” Hanna Amireh, a member of the PLO’s executive committee, told Arab News. 

“When the PLO was responsible for all Palestinian affairs, this made sense, but now we have a government with relevant ministries and it doesn’t make sense to have such duplication.”

Most PLO staff belong to the various factions that make up the organization, and have been on the payroll for many years. This arrangement allowed these factions to provide jobs for their members. 

PLO sources told Arab News that the restructuring would also affect the Palestine National Council. The PNC holds occasional extraordinary meetings, but its full regular session scheduled for April 30 will be the first for 22 years.

Most of the PNC’s budget goes to pay salaries to staff who have little work to do. “The membership of the PNC will have to be cut in half, as will its budget,” a PLO source said. 

Najeeb Qaddoumi, a PNC member and senior Fatah activist in Jordan, confirmed that a restructuring would take place on April 30 but denied that it would be downsizing. “Some departments might be eliminated and others might be boosted,” he said.

Ali Qleibo, an artist, author and lecturer at Al Quds University, said the PLO had “exhausted its role since Lebanon and has caused chaos in the land.”

The downsizing will surprise analysts who had expected the Palestinians to revitalize the PLO after the failure of the peace process and the lack of trust in the Palestinian Authority.