‘Risk to Qatar World Cup, contractors’ following latest corruption allegations

It wasn't long after this image was taken that the first claims of corruption were being made. (File/AFP)
Updated 11 March 2019

‘Risk to Qatar World Cup, contractors’ following latest corruption allegations

  • Doha accused of offering FIFA $880m in secret payments
  • Al Jazeera executives made $400m offer in TV contract, UK newspaper reveals

LONDON: Contractors working on Qatar World Cup projects face an increased risk from Doha being stripped of the rights to host the controversial 2022 tournament following the latest corruption allegations surrounding the Gulf state’s dealings with FIFA, a leading analyst has said.

Qatar allegedly offered football’s governing body as much as $880 million in secret payments at key stages in its efforts to host the 2022 World Cup, it emerged on Sunday.

The new allegations may be “the most damaging so far,” Ghanem Nuseibeh, founder of Cornerstone Global, a management consultancy focused on the Middle East, told Arab News.

Nuseibeh said that the revelations posed a risk to both FIFA and companies currently working on Qatar World Cup projects.

“It is not about individuals but about institutions on both sides: FIFA itself and Qatari channel Al Jazeera. FIFA will now need to decide on how it will investigate itself, rather than individuals connected to it. The reputation of FIFA risks permanent irreversible damage,” Nuseibeh told Arab News.  

“This also carries substantial risks to companies currently working on Qatar 2022 projects. With a real increase in risk in Qatar not hosting 2022, businesses involved will want reassurances from Qatari authorities on what could happen to them if Qatar is indeed stripped of the right to host.”

Leaked files seen by The Sunday Times appear to show that Doha offered FIFA $400 million 21 days before the decision to hold the tournament in the tiny Gulf state was announced.

Executives from the Qatari state-run broadcaster Al Jazeera made the offer at the height of campaigning over the tournament, in a clear breach of FIFA’s own anti-bribery rules, the UK newspaper claimed. 

The TV rights contract, signed in December 2010, reportedly included a $100 million “success fee” to be paid to a FIFA account if Qatar’s bid was successful.  

The British newspaper said it had seen documents that read: “In the event that the 2022 competition is awarded to the state of Qatar, Al Jazeera shall, in addition to the … rights fee, pay to FIFA into the designated account the monetary amount of $100 million.”

Such an offer would represent a huge conflict of interest and a breach of FIFA’s own rules, given that Al Jazeera is controlled by Qatar’s emir, the newspaper reported.

It is also claimed that an second television rights contract for $480 million was offered by Al Jazeera sports spinoff beIN Media in April 2014 — shortly before FIFA cut short its investigation into the World Cup bidding process, and when Qatar’s hosting of the tournament was in doubt. That pushed the amount FIFA was offered by Qatari officials to $880 million.

That contract now forms part of a bribery inquiry by Swiss police, according to the The Sunday Times report.

On Saturday evening, Damian Collins, the chairman of the UK digital, culture and media committee, said FIFA must freeze the Al Jazeera payments and launch an investigation into the contract “that appears to be in clear breach of the rules,” the paper reported.

Under the contract terms, a multimillion-dollar payment, including a portion of the $100 million “success fee” is reportedly due to be paid next month. 

It has long been claimed that Qatar offered bribes to FIFA officials in its bid to host the 2022 World Cup — and this latest report will likely fuel further suspicion that Qatar effectively bought the right to host the tournament.

FIFA did not respond to a request for comment when contacted by Arab News.


Libya peace still elusive despite ‘small step’ in Berlin

Updated 38 sec ago

Libya peace still elusive despite ‘small step’ in Berlin

BERLIN: A peaceful solution to Libya’s protracted conflict remains uncertain despite an international agreement struck in Germany, analysts say, as a fragile cease-fire between warring factions brought only a temporary truce.
On Sunday in Berlin, world leaders committed to ending all foreign meddling in Libya and to uphold a weapons embargo as part of a broader plan to end the country’s conflict.
But overnight Sunday to Monday heavy bombardment again echoed south of Tripoli — the capital of a country that has been in turmoil since the 2011 NATO-backed uprising that killed dictator Muammar Qaddafi.
Since April last year the UN-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) based in Tripoli has fought back against an offensive launched by fighters loyal to eastern commander Khalifa Haftar.
GNA leader Fayez Al-Sarraj and Haftar attended the Berlin summit but they refused to meet and the conference failed to get the two rivals to commit to a permanent truce.
The host, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, tried hard to get Sarraj and Haftar to engage in a serious dialogue.
But after the hours-long talks, she had to put on a brave face and admit she had no illusions concerning a peaceful outcome in Libya anytime soon.
“Ensuring that a cease-fire is immediately respected is simply not easy to guarantee,” Merkel said.
Echoing Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov who took part in the talks, she said the Libyan parties had taken “a small step forward.”
Khaled Al-Montassar, a Libyan university professor of international relations, agreed that much still needs to be done.
“Theoretically, the Berlin summit was successful and touched upon all the details and the causes of the Libyan crisis,” he said.
“But the mechanisms of implementing the summit’s conclusions are still not clear.”
The summit was attended by the presidents of Russia, Turkey, France and Egypt, as well as US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and UN chief Antonio Guterres.
The main points they agreed to will be put forward as a UN Security Council resolution.
They include a commitment to end foreign interference in Libya, respect for a UN arms embargo, a permanent cease-fire and steps to dismantle numerous militias and armed groups.
European states must now convince Italy to resume naval operations suspended since March 2019 aimed at enforcing the embargo.
Other points agreed in Berlin were a return to a political process under the auspices of the UN, respect for human rights and guarantees to ensure the security of Libya’s lucrative oil infrastructure.
The United Nations walked away from the summit satisfied at least with one key development.
The summit saw the formation of a military commission comprising five GNA loyalists and five Haftar delegates who will seek to define ways of consolidating the cease-fire.
The UN mission in Libya had for weeks urged the rival camps to submit names of delegates to such a commission, and its wish was finally answered on Sunday.
The military commission is expected to meet in the coming days, according to the UN, tasked with turning the fragile cease-fire into a permanent truce as requested by the international leaders in Berlin.
The cease-fire was co-sponsored by Russia and Turkey and has broadly held since it went into effect on January 12.
The main goal of the Berlin summit was to end the international divisions concerning Libya.
Although the GNA is recognized by the UN as Libya’s legitimate government, the world body’s member states do not agree when it comes to the oil-rich North African country.
Haftar, who insists his military campaign is aimed at battling Islamists, has the support of several countries, including Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and France, with some providing him with military and logistical backing.
The GNA is backed by Qatar and Turkey, which has recently sent some troops to shore up Sarraj’s embattled government.
Moscow is also suspected of backing Haftar but denies funding Russian mercenaries on the ground.
As a follow-up to the Berlin summit, the two rival administrations must now choose representatives to attend talks in order to revive the moribund political process, UN envoy to Libya Ghassan Salame said.
Algeria, which attended the conference and shares a border with Libya, on Monday offered to hold inter-Libyan talks on its soil. French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian will travel to Algiers on Tuesday, his ministry said Monday, to discuss the situation in Libya, among other topics.
Future Libya talks are certain to face huge challenges, particularly after pro-Haftar forces blocked oil exports from Libya’s main ports last week.
Meanwhile, Libyans on social media remained skeptical, the deep divisions reflected in comments such as “who won, Haftar or Sarraj?“
Tripoli resident Abdul Rahman Milud said a “another summit isn’t necessary.”
Establishing “a consensus among Libyans themselves” is much more important, he told AFP.