Organizers of Qatar's successful 2022 World Cup bid on Saturday denied allegations published recently by Britain's Sunday Times that a senior Qatari soccer official had made payments in order to win support for its bid.
In a robust defense of its campaign to host the world's biggest sporting event, Qatar 2022 attacked the allegations of corruption that have overshadowed the buildup to the Brazilian tournament, which began on Thursday.
"These allegations are baseless and riddled with innuendo designed to tarnish the reputation of Qatar's 2022 Bid Committee," organizers said.
They added that the allegations appeared to be deliberately timed to coincide with an investigation by FIFA, world soccer's governing body, into the bidding process for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups. Russia won the right to host the 2018 tournament.
Michael Garcia, the U.S. lawyer leading the probe, said in Brazil this week he would consider any evidence brought before him before releasing a final report.
If corruption was proved, Qatar could in theory be stripped of the Cup tournament, or at least face a challenge to its position as host either through a re-vote or other processes.
"It should be clear that these leaks are not an attempt to shine light on the 2018/2022 bidding process," the statement said. "They are, instead, a flagrant attempt to prejudice an ongoing independent investigation.
"Certainly, if the source of these leaks were genuinely concerned with the evidence, they would have provided the leaked documents to Mr. Garcia, as he requested, instead of offering them to the media."
The Sunday Times reported that some of the "millions of documents" it had seen linked payments by former FIFA executive committee member Mohamed Bin Hammam to officials to win backing for Qatar's World Cup bid.
Bin Hammam has not commented on his involvement since he was banned for life from soccer in 2012.
The Qatar 2022 statement confirmed that it had a "relationship" with Bin Hammam, but repeated earlier denials that he was a part of the official bid team.
"Let us be clear: Mr. Bin Hammam is from Qatar, but he was not a member of Qatar's bid team."
"We have nothing to hide ... In every aspect of the 2018/2022 FIFA World Cup bidding process, we strictly adhered to FIFA's rules and regulations."