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World Cup crisis: Qatar bid under investigation

Nadine Rupp | Getty Images

The controversy surrounding Qatar's staging of the 2022 World Cup went into overdrive this weekend, after thousands of documents obtained by The Sunday Times painted a trail of alleged bribery by the former Qatari football official Mohamed Bin Hammam to secure votes in support of the Gulf island's bid.

Qatar's Supreme Council for Delivery and Legacy, which oversees the preparations, was swift to issue a statement on Sunday "denying all allegations of wrong-doing".

"We say again that Mohamed Bin Hammam played no official or unofficial role in Qatar's 2022 Bid Committee," the statement read. "As was the case with every other member of FIFA's Executive Committee, our bid team had to convince Mr. Bin Hammam of the merits of our bid".

The information published by The Sunday Times, much of it seen but not independently verified by CNBC, is surprisingly detailed, and includes email exchanges and financial transaction notes. It also appears to show that Bin Hammam was actively campaigning for Qatar long before the winning bid was chosen, with illicit payments possibly amounting to $5 million.

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The reports came ahead of meetings slated for later Monday between FIFA ethics investigator Michael Garcia and Qatari football officials in Oman.

"We are cooperating fully with Mr. Garcia's on-going investigation and remain totally confident that any objective inquiry will conclude we won the bid to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup fairly", the Qatar statement added.

Meanwhile on Monday, FIFA said Garcia would complete the current phase of the investigation into the World Cup bids for both 2018 and 2022 by June 9, and would submit a report on the matter in six week's time, according to Reuters.

The controversy has prompted calls for the bidding process for the 2022 games to be restaged. FIFA Vice President Jim Boyce has already responded to the newspaper report, telling BBC Radio 5 Live he would support a re-vote should the documents prove accurate.

British Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg was the latest official to weigh in on the conversation, describing the allegations on Twitter as "shocking". "If proven true, FIFA must rerun the contest fairly and openly," he wrote.

Bin Hammam has already been embroiled in a series of investigations since 2011. An attempted bribery charge initially resulted in a life ban but was later revoked due to lack of evidence. A second trial in December 2012 handed him another life ban for "conflicts of interest" while president of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC).

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The revelations come at a delicate time, with the World Cup in Brazil just over a week away. It also comes on the heels of the groundbreaking of Qatar's first new stadium, Al Wakrah, for the global event in 2022. The world's largest liquid natural gas exporter is planning to spend some $200 billion over the next 10 years on construction projects.

Qatar is already entangled in contentious public disputes surrounding labor rights and its suitability as a location for a summer sports event.

FIFA as well has found itself in a series of crises of late. FIFA President Sepp Blatter and other officials have already been interviewed earlier this year as part of a wider probe.

Qatar's stock exchange, which will be effectively part of the emerging markets index of the MSCI on Tuesday, closed 1.06 percent lower.

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