Audit Says Bin Hammam Enriched Himself

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) ? The man in charge of Asian soccer, once a candidate to oust FIFA President Sepp Blatter as the sport's leader, enriched himself and handed out hundreds of thousands of dollars to friends and relatives, according to an audit obtained by The Associated Press.

Mohamed bin Hammam, a 63-year-old Qatari whose life ban from soccer was overturned in a sports court this week, is accused of using the Asian Football Confederation bank accounts to conduct his private affairs.

The audit was prepared by the international accounting firm of PricewaterhouseCoopers and dated July 13. A copy of the report was obtained by the AP. Its contents were confirmed by two people with direct knowledge of the report who spoke on condition of anonymity because it hasn't been made public.

The report offered rare details of the usually secretive accounts of not-for-profit football bodies handling hundreds of millions of dollars. And it portrayed a man who was running Asian soccer like a family business, negotiating contracts on his own and mingling his personal and AFC bank accounts.

The audit was especially critical of bin Hammam's use of AFC accounts for personal expenses, although there was no evidence of direct payments to bin Hammam.

"It is highly unusual for funds (especially in the amounts detailed here) that appear to be for the benefit of Mr. Hammam personally, to be deposited to an organization's bank account," the audit said.

He received millions of dollars from individuals linked to AFC contracts, according to the audit, and spent tens of thousands of dollars on items like a honeymoon for his son and dental work, haircuts and cash payments for his family.

It found he spent $700,000 from AFC coffers on himself and his family, including $100,000 for his wife, $10,000 on a Bulgari watch for himself and nearly $5,000 for his daughter's cosmetic dentistry.

Payments were also made to Asian, African and Caribbean soccer officials, including $250,000 to Jack Warner, the longtime strongman of Caribbean soccer.

"The arrangement with Mr Hammam's use of the sundry debtors account is, in our view, highly unusual and reflects poor governance," the audit said. "This use by Mr Hammam of the sundry debtors account continued even after the external auditor's recommended that it be stopped. Our review indicates that it was common belief that this account was for Mr Hammam personally and all funds flowing through it were his personal monies.

"We question why Mr Hammam would conduct his personal financial transactions through the AFC's bank accounts when the documents we have seen indicate that he already has several personal bank accounts in various countries," the audit said.

The Asian governing body, which he has led since 2002 was advised to seek "legal advice in respect of ... whether the actions of Mr. Hammam, and other parties identified in this report, constitute criminal and/or civil breaches." Bin Hammam was suspended for 30 days by the AFC following receipt of the report last week.

Bin Hammam was not available for comment. His U.S. lawyer said the allegations were a FIFA tactic to block his return to world soccer.

"If there were ever any question about the political motives behind FIFA's vendetta against Mr. Bin Hammam, it has been answered by the outrageous and baseless new charges that FIFA and AFC are bringing against him," lawyer Eugene Gulland said in a statement.

The audit found that a contract for commercial rights with World Sports Group and its subsidiary World Sports Football were no-bid contracts that were "considerably undervalued." A $14 million payment from companies with stakes in WSG, Al Baraka Investment and Development Co. and International Sports Events Company, was made to the AFC for the "personal use of its president," the report said.

Bin Hammam also approved several lucrative, no-bid contracts for commercial rights, including one for Qatari-owned Al-Jazeera Satellite Network.

The audit said its review of the AFC accounts found that it routinely handed out tens of thousands of dollars in cash to federation presidents and their relatives. Most of it went to their personal bank accounts and none of it was for soccer-related expenses, it said.

Gaurav Thapa, whose father heads the Nepalese federation, received $100,000 while Filipino soccer official Jose Mari Martinez received $60,000 and had $11,226 in hospital expenses paid. Another $50,000 went to East Timorese soccer official Francisco Kalbuadi Lay, the audit found.

Another $25,000 went for tuition expenses for a Bangladesh soccer federation spokesman and $20,000 to cover the cost of cancer treatment for the federation's general secretary.

Also, nearly $2,000 was spent by Bin Hammam to buy 14 shirts for Blatter and nearly $5,000 went toward the purchase of suits for Issa Hayatou, the CAF president.

The acting head of the AFC called for an end to spending abuses.

"I think this development also makes one thing very clear to all of us ? there is no place for unethical practices anymore in AFC," Zhang Jilong said in his opening address Thursday to an executive committee meeting. "I ask this (committee) to prevent any abuse of power and misuse of privileges by any office bearer."

__

Dunbar contributed to this report from Switzerland.

(This version CORRECTS Corrects amount of hospital expenses.)

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