Qatar again denies claim of cash offers to World Cup voters

Hassan Al Thawadi, Secretary General of the World Cup organizing committee talks during an interview with The Associated Press in Doha, Qatar, on March 31, 2022. (AP Photo/Darko Bandic, File)

DOHA, Qatar (AP) — A longstanding whistleblower allegation that Qatar offered cash to voters during its winning bid to host the World Cup was denied again by officials in a Netflix documentary released Wednesday.

The four-part show “FIFA Uncovered” directly put the question to key Qatari official Hassan Al-Thawadi — the bid campaign leader in 2010, now heading the World Cup organizing committee — of whether he took part in offering $1.5 million to each of three FIFA voters from Africa.

Whistleblower Phaedra Almajid has claimed for more than a decade she was in the room with Al-Thawadi at a hotel in Angola in January 2010 when money was offered to the three men, who were among 24 voters set to pick the 2018 and 2022 World Cup hosts later that year.

“My reaction, especially on the Phaedra situation, it’s frustration,” Al-Thawadi told interviewers for the Netflix show. “They are inherently false and there are facts on the ground that prove they are false.”

Almajid’s claims added to a cloud of suspected wrongdoing hanging over Qatar long after it won the vote by FIFA’s executive committee in December 2010. Qatar’s bid team has always insisted it followed campaign rules set by FIFA.

The alleged offers to African voters were detailed in May 2011 by a British parliamentary hearing which received evidence from The Sunday Times newspaper. They implicated, and were denied by, Issa Hayatou and Jacques Anouma plus a third man, Amos Adamu, who were suspended by FIFA for financial misconduct before the World Cup votes.

Almajid was in Angola working on the bid’s international media relations but was fired soon after.

She later testified to a FIFA-appointed investigation of the 2018-2022 bidders led by Michael Garcia, a former U.S. Attorney in New York and now a judge in state courts.

Garcia’s report in 2014, which FIFA did not publish in full until 2017, dismissed Almajid’s evidence. It concluded she was wrong about another Qatari bid official witnessing the offers and suggested she had altered her evidence.

Almajid repeated her claims to “FIFA Uncovered” and said the cash was offered to Africans’ national soccer bodies and not the men personally.

Netflix is airing the FIFA program less than two weeks before the World Cup starts Nov. 20.