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Qatar, Russia refute World Cup bribery accusations

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Ousted Fifa president Sepp Blatter says the Russia and Qatar decisions were a gentleman’s agreement. AFP

Qatar, Russia refute World Cup bribery accusations

Qatar and Russia hit back at allegations of bribery on Tuesday after US prosecutors accused them of paying millions in bribes for the rights to host the 2018 and 2022 tournaments.

Fifa officials received bribes to vote in favour of awarding the 2018 World Cup to Russia and the 2022 tournament to Qatar, said US Justice Department documents released on Monday.

Doha said it “strongly denies the allegations contained within the court papers” while the Kremlin said it “absolutely legally got the right” to host the 2018 global football spectacle.

The US legal action is linked to a wide-ranging 2015 corruption scandal that left world governing body Fifa in turmoil and led to the downfall of then-president Sepp Blatter.

In the ensuing years, the US government has accused a total of 45 people and various sports companies of more than 90 crimes and of paying or accepting more than $200 million in bribes.

“Russia absolutely legally got the right to organise the World Cup,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.

Qatar’s Supreme Committee for Delivery said in a statement that the allegations “are part of a long-standing case, the subject of which is not the 2018/2022 Fifa World Cup bidding process.”

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Russian Alexander Barabanov vies for the puck during the IIHF Men’s Ice Hockey World Championships. AFP

The timings of the competition, due to be held in November and December of 2022, remain unchanged by the coronavirus pandemic which has already forced the postponement of the European football championships and the Tokyo Olympics. Both will now take place in 2021.

The latest US legal action centres on two former executives of US media giant Fox who were charged with corruption, bank fraud and money-laundering on Monday.

But Federal prosecutors have also shed fresh light on the scandal-tainted bidding war for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.

An unsealed superseding indictment released on Monday detailed corruption surrounding the 2010 vote in Zurich which saw Fifa award the 2018 World Cup to Russia and the 2022 World Cup to Qatar.

Blatter told AFP that “there was a gentlemen’s agreement at the heart of Fifa’s executive committee” to award the 2018 tournament to Russia and the 2022 edition to Qatar.

“That’s all,” added Blatter who presided over both bidding processes and is currently banned from football.

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