GENEVA - In a ruling that could lead to the downfall of more high-level soccer officials, FIFA banned a former vice-president for eight years for taking money from Mohamed bin Hammam, one of the key backers of Qatar's successful World Cup bid.
Reynald Temarii breached five sections of FIFA's ethics code when he accepted 305,640 euros ($343,000) to pay legal costs in a fight against FIFA from Bin Hammam in January 2011, the governing body said Wednesday in announcing its ethics committee's verdict.
The length of the ban shows that the FIFA ethics committee could act tough in potentially dozens of pending cases of soccer officials from Asia and Africa taking cash gifts from the now-disgraced Bin Hammam.
Temarii, then the president of the Oceania Football Confederation, was originally found guilty of breaking confidentiality and loyalty rules by discussing the World Cup hosting contest with undercover reporters. He was banned for one year and barred from voting in the 2018 and 2022 World Cup bid contest.
The Tahitian appealed, a move that ensured Oceania could not take part in the bid contest. The regional body was mandated to support Australia, one of Qatar's four rivals in the 2022 contest.
Russia and Qatar, respectively, were picked to host those tournaments by the FIFA executive committee in December 2010.
The latest ban comes because Bin Hammam agreed to fund Temarii's legal fight.
FIFA said Wednesday that Temarii met with Bin Hammam, then president of the Asian Football Confederation, in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in November 2010 before pursuing his appeal. Temarii broke rules relating to accepting gifts, conflicts of interest, loyalty, confidentiality and general rules of conduct, FIFA said.
"In all cases, persons bound by this code shall not offer to or accept from anyone within or outside FIFA cash in any amount or form," the FIFA ethics code states.
Although the ethics code was updated in 2012, FIFA granted powers to apply it retroactively.
In October 2010, British newspaper The Sunday Times reported widespread corruption and vote-buying offers in the World Cup contests. The resulting fallout, which damaged the reputation of FIFA and the integrity of the votes, persists today.
Temarii's colleague at FIFA, Amos Adamu of Nigeria, was also barred from the World Cup vote and served a three-year ban. Adamu told reporters posing as lobbyists it would influence his vote if they paid him hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash, saying it was to create artificial fields in his home country.
Four former FIFA executive committee members also served bans in the case.
Bin Hammam was a leading campaigner for Blatter in the FIFA president's first two election wins, in 1998 and 2002, but challenged his former ally in 2011 after Qatar was awarded the 2022 tournament.
The Qatari businessman withdrew days before the presidential vote when implicated in bribing voters in the Caribbean. Although Bin Hammam overturned a lifetime ban imposed by FIFA, he was later expelled in 2012 for mismanagement of Asian Football Confederation finances.
Last year, The Sunday Times reported it had evidence from a huge cache of Bin Hammam's emails that he paid about $5 million to dozens of African soccer officials to further his FIFA ambitions. Because the FIFA ethics committee does not give details of ongoing cases, it is unclear how many people are under investigation in that case.