FIFA suspends former bin Hammam aide amid bribery investigation

FIFA has suspended an aide to former presidential candidate Mohamed bin Hammam for refusing to co-operate with investigations regarding his boss.
Mohamed bin Hammam was suspended 90 days through late October. (Shirley Bahadur/Associated Press)

FIFA suspended an aide to former presidential candidate Mohamed bin Hammam on Tuesday for refusing to co-operate with investigations regarding his boss.

FIFA told Najeeb Chirakal he cannot work in football for two months, and warned him that he faces being charged himself for violations of its code of ethics. That includes a duty to report suspected corruption.

"The ban is effective immediately and will last for two months or until Chirakal co-operates with these proceedings as requested, whichever is earlier," FIFA said in a statement.

Bin Hammam's United States-based lawyer, Eugene Gulland, declined comment on the case to The Associated Press.

Bin Hammam is being investigated over alleged bribery during his election challenge to FIFA president Sepp Blatter last year, plus alleged financial mismanagement while Asian Football Confederation president.

FIFA prosecutor Michael J. Garcia formally opened both probes after bin Hammam's lifetime ban from football was overturned on appeal by the Court of Arbitration for Sport in July.

Garcia followed the court's suggestion to re-open the bribery case. The three-man CAS panel wrote that FIFA did not prove bin Hammam's guilt, but he was "more likely than not" the source of almost $1 million in cash offered in $40,000 payments to Caribbean voters in Trinidad.

The second FIFA investigation concerns revelations in a forensic audit commissioned by the AFC into its accounts and broadcasting deals signed off by bin Hammam during his leadership since 2002.

Provisionally suspended

Bin Hammam is currently provisionally suspended by FIFA for 90 days, through late October. Garcia requested the sanction from the judging chamber of FIFA's revamped ethics court act "to prevent interference with the establishment of the truth."

Chirakal, a Qatar-based aide and former AFC staffer, was asked "to provide information and documents, and failed to respond," FIFA said.

He was also warned that "investigation proceedings may be opened against him ... if he continues to fail to co-operate with the investigation."

Garcia had suggested days after being appointed as FIFA independent prosecutor in July that he would seek action against reluctant witnesses.

"It is incredibly important for this [ethics] code to contain penalties, sanctions, clear lines of obligations and duty to co-operate. That is a very powerful tool," the former United States Attorney said in a conference call.

In the original Caribbean bribery affair, a FIFA probe led by former FBI director Louis Freeh's agency was hampered by some officials declining to meet with or respond to investigators.

Freeh's team is involved in the renewed investigation into bin Hammam being conducted by FIFA and the AFC.