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Friday
Jul112014

Heat Rises on Corruption Allegations in Qatar World Cup Bid

TongRo Images/ Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- As soccer fans flock to their televisions for the World Cup final this weekend, the FBI and international investigators are looking ahead to allegations of corruption and abuse halfway around the world in Qatar, where the 2022 games are scheduled to take place in one of the hottest places on earth -- where daytime temperatures regularly reach 124 degrees.

During the World Cup this year in Brazil officials declared the first-of-its-kind water break during a match when the temperature hit the mid-80s, fearing for the health of the players.

Before Qatar won their bid for the 2022 World Cup, soccer federation officials were warned in advanced about the potentially dangerous heat in Qatar that makes its capital of Doha look like a ghost town during the day -- some 40 degrees hotter than during the pause in Brazil.

They were also told about allegations by human rights groups of what the groups called medieval conditions for migrant workers there that could cost the lives of hundreds who will build the new World Cup stadiums. In one migrant living space visited by ABC News last month, 10 beds were stacked together in a single room.

But those troubles were ignored in the final vote that came down to Qatar and the U.S., which had named 18 potential host cities. The U.S. lost.

Not long after the vote, allegations surfaced that some FIFA members had been bribed to vote for Qatar. Most of the allegations focused on prominent Qatari billionaire businessman Mohammad Bin Hammam, then a FIFA board member accused by The Sunday Times and others of giving cash and lavish gifts.

“There’s no doubt about it that he’s going around using a secret slush fund paying football officials all over the place,” Sunday Times reporter Jonathan Calvert told ABC News. The Sunday Times based a recent expose on a cache of “millions” of leaked documents surrounding the bidding.

A FIFA vice president from the Caribbean was forced to resign after allegations surfaced that he took more than $1 million from the Qatari businessman. He says he was the victim of a witch hunt.

Bin Hammam did not respond to questions from ABC News, but after being thrown out of FIFA three years ago for alleged bribes unrelated to the current allegations, he told Sky News, "I did not give any cash gift to anybody."

Alexandra Wrage worked on an independent panel designed to investigate and combat allegations of corruption in FIFA itself before she quit last year out of sheer frustration.

“It was pretty clear…that independent oversight was not welcomed and that more transparency, frankly, was not welcome,” Wrage told ABC News. “I certainly felt as if my role was of window dressing.”

FIFA has launched an internal investigation into the Qatar allegations, but officials in the Gulf state maintain they won the vote fair and square. They say that the allegations of corruption are the result of racism.

The results of FIFA’s own investigation are expected soon, amid calls for a new vote on who should host the 2022 games.



Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio