Qatar World Cup fallout
If corruption allegations surrounding Qatar's winning campaign are proved to be accurate, it could affect more than just the 2022 World Cup.PT2M14S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-39f9c 620 349 June 3, 2014
A key whistleblower has been flown to New York to testify to international soccer's top corruption investigator about Australia's controversial bidding strategy for the scandal-plagued 2022 World Cup.
Former Football Federation Australia corporate affairs manager Bonita Mersiades. Photo: Supplied
Fairfax Media can reveal that FIFA chief investigator Michael Garcia recently flew former Football Federation Australia corporate affairs manager Bonita Mersiades to the US to confidentially interview her about the way Australia sought to win the backing of soccer chiefs in 2010.
On Monday, Australian soccer chief David Gallop refused to rule out the possibility of Australia re-entering the race to host the 2022 World Cup if Qatar is stripped of the event after a vote-buying scandal involving the Gulf state erupted in the media over the weekend.
But Fairfax Media can reveal that Mr Garcia has probed Australia's interaction with the two allegedly corrupt former FIFA officials, Jack Warner and Reynald Temarii, who are also at the centre of allegations involving Qatar's successful 2022 World Cup bid.
Fairfax Media can also reveal that:
■ Mr Garcia has interviewed the FFA's former chief financial officer, Ian Lewis, who is understood to have left the Australian football body in 2010 after expressing concerns that he was not able to oversee the FFA's multimillion-dollar World Cup expenditure.
■ The FFA has failed to call in the federal police to investigate the findings of a separate 2013 inquiry that concluded that the allegedly corrupt former FIFA executive, Jack Warner, stole $500,000 in Australian football funds he had requested to upgrade a stadium
The funds were meant for a Trinidad and Tobago stadium upgrade that Mr Warner had sought from Australian soccer officials in 2010, at a time when the FFA was also seeking Mr Warner's support for Australia's ultimately unsuccessful World Cup hosting bid.
A senior FIFA source described as ''disgraceful'' the revelation that the FFA had not informed the federal police about the allegedly stolen $US462,000. The FFA sent the funds to a Warner-controlled Caribbean bank account in 2010, ostensibly to fund the upgrade.
Ms Mersiades refused to confirm to Fairfax Media whether she had been interviewed by Mr Garcia.
But she said she believed the reason the FFA was reluctant to report Mr Warner's alleged theft of its funds was because it would expose the highly risky manner in which the FFA gave ''international development'' grants to corruption-riddled overseas football bodies at a time when the FFA was also seeking their support for Australia's bid to host the World Cup.
''The FFA should report the alleged theft of its funds by Mr Warner immediately to the federal police, given a 2013 inquiry has already found that a fraud has most likely been committed,'' Ms Mersiades said.
The April 2013 inquiry was conducted by the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF) integrity committee and found that the $US462,200 the FFA deposited in a Caribbean bank account controlled by Mr Warner had most likely been stolen.
Over the weekend, the UK paper The Sunday Times exposed an alleged bid-buying racket run by former FIFA executive committee member Qatari Mohamed Bin Hammam.
It allegedly involved payments totalling around $US5 million to football officials in return for getting them to support Qatar's ultimately successful World Cup bid.
Among questionable payments allegedly made by Bin Hammam were those wired to then FIFA officials Mr Warner and Mr Temarii.
Both are former FIFA executives whom Australia was lobbying in a controversial manner in 2010.
Fairfax Media has revealed previously that Mr Temarii had a list of demands for the FFA to meet in return for his vote, including Hyundai vehicles for Oceania member federations and financial assistance to soccer in the region.
Ms Mersiades told Fairfax Media: ''The revelations in The Sunday Times about the way Bin Hammam used hospitality, gifts, perks, and upgrades of stadiums to win bid support has parallels with the manner in which Australia used some of its funds during its bidding campaign. Just look at the FFA funds that landed in Warner's account and which have never been recovered.''
The revelations of the Bin Hammam payments have sparked intense debate about whether to challenge Qatar's right to host the 2022 World Cup, with the FFA saying it is ''keenly interested'' to see the results of a continuing FIFA investigation of the Qatari bid.