FIFA on Tuesday cleared its longest serving executive board member Michel D’Hooghe of Belgium of four corruption charges in the bids for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups won by Russia and Qatar.
D’Hooghe, chairman of FIFA’s medical committee, was one of a number of past and present FIFA officials under investigation following corruption allegations made since the 2010 votes for the World Cup venues.
The football world body’s ethics committee said its investigatory chamber found “there is insufficient evidence to suggest that Dr D’Hooghe violated any provisions of the FIFA code of ethics.”
It said no further investigation is needed into the four charges, including that D’Hooghe received a painting from the Russian bid committee before the vote for the World Cup venues was held in 2010.
“The adjudicatory chamber is satisfied that the painting has no commercial value, as confirmed by two appraisals, and was offered as a friendly gesture by Mr Vyacheslav Koloskov, a friend of Dr D’Hooghe.”
Koloskov is a former FIFA vice president who was a member of the Russian bid committee.
The chamber said it had also found out that D’Hooghe “appeared to have accepted a trip paid for by a bidding nation.”
But it added that it was “satisfied that, based on investigations conducted by the investigatory chamber, the air travel and other expenses for the trip were in fact covered by FIFA, as it was related to Dr D’Hooghe’s official function as chairman of the FIFA Medical Committee.”
The accommodation costs were paid by the bidding nation, which was not named. But the adjudicatory chamber said it was “satisfied that Dr D’Hooghe was unaware that this bid committee had covered his accommodation costs for this trip.”
A third allegation surrounded a job given to his son, also a doctor, in Qatar after the 2010 vote.
The chamber said it was “satisfied that this employment relationship was unrelated to the bidding process” and that D’Hooghe had “no involvement in the discussions leading up to the offer of employment”.
The Belgian, who has been a member of the FIFA executive for 27 years, was also accused of attempting “to help secure a business opportunity in Qatar for the son of a close friend.” The FIFA chamber said there was “insufficient evidence” to back the claims.
FIFA’s ethics committee is also believed to be investigating three other past or present FIFA executive officials. – Agence France-Presse