Qatar's corruption stains World Athletics Championship

  • doha 2019

In November 2014, Qatar earned rights to hold the 2019 World Athletics Championship. This victory sparked a murmur of controversy and criticism since the Arab state is also set to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

The reason behind the controversy on Qatar’s bid to host the important sports tournament is because the International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF), which met in Monaco, chose Doha despite strong candidates such as Barcelona, Spain, which has had previous experience in hosting the Olympic Games.

US federal prosecutors are now conducting an extensive investigation into global sports corruption, including FIFA, the world governing body for football, and international and US Olympics organizations, the New York Times reported on Wednesday, citing a grand jury subpoena.

As part of the probe, the Justice Department is looking at possible racketeering, money laundering and fraud charges related to two track and field world championship events and the business executives who have consulted on bids for various other elite competitions, according to the subpoena, the Times reported.

It also focuses on the International Federation of Athletics, which awarded the 2019 World Athletics Championships to Doha and 2021 to Eugene, the report added.

The investigation is being conducted by the US Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York in Brooklyn, which has previously investigated FIFA and systematic doping in Russia. A spokesman for the US Attorney’s office declined to comment on the report.

The Office has also carried out other important international investigations relating to terrorism linked to Al-Qaeda.

The office has already exposed full-fledged worlds of football officials and business people who have exchanged millions of dollars for TV rights and advertising marketing for sporting events.

The summons for the Doha dossier was filed in January and formally requested records, bank accounts and other documents dating back to 2013. The New York Times confirmed that investigators had called in some individuals for information about bank accounts belonging to individuals and companies.

To give an example, French newspaper, Le Monde, reported in 2016 that Doha had paid about $5 million to Senegalese Papa Massata Diack, son of former IAAF president Lamine Diak, who served as a marketing consultant to the federation for the duration of his father’s time in office in order to obtain the organization of the 2019 tournament.

British newspaper The Guardian has published mutual emails between the concerned parties, and data files from tax authorities detailing financial transfers between Qatar’s Investment Fund and a sports marketing company owned by Papa Massata Diack, who was later arrested in corruption cases.

According to observers, Doha is keen to become an important sports capital to improve its image in the face of accusations involving financing terrorism and supporting militants. As such, the country has made a great effort over the years to obtain rights to organize major tournaments, including the Tennis tournament in 1993, power games in 1997, Golf in 1998, and the Motor Cycle Grand Prix in 2005.

Doha also succeeded in winning the FIFA World Youth Championship in 1995 and the 2015 World Men’s Handball Championship.

In October 2017, the Swiss prosecutor’s office opened an investigation on Paris Saint-Germain President and chief executive of the beIN Group, Nasser Al-Khelaifi, and former FIFA secretary-general Jérôme Valcke, on corruption cases involving grant rights to broadcast World Cup matches.

Finally, a book was published in Britain titled “The Ugly Game: The Qatari Plot to Buy the World Cup” which was written by English writers in the British Sunday Times, Heidi Blake and Jonathan Calvert. The book investigates dubious deals between Qatar and union officials (FIFA) to vote in favor of Doha.

Doha has not yet issued a response to the New York Times.

The people asked to provide information, including personal and corporate bank records, were expected to appear in federal court in Brooklyn as soon as this week, the Times reported.

A spokesman for the United States Olympic Committee declined to comment on Wednesday and a spokesman for the International Olympic Committee did not immediately respond to a request, the newspaper reported. A spokeswoman for the IAAF said it had not been contacted by US investigators.

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