Qatar 2022 'whistleblower' in corruption U-turn

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Qatar 2022 'whistleblower' admits lies

Newsnight Special Report

Coverage:
BBC Two, Monday 11 July, 2230 BST

The "whistleblower" behind a series of corruption allegations involving Fifa executive committee members and Qatar's 2022 World Cup bid has told the BBC she fabricated the claims.

Phaedra Al Majid, a former international media officer for Qatar 2022, said she wanted to exact revenge after losing her campaign job.

She decided to go public after she said her "lies had gone too far".

Al Majid has now signed a legal affidavit retracting the allegations.

Fifa has also confirmed that it has received an email from Al Majid withdrawing the allegations.

"Fifa can confirm receipt of an email from a person claiming to have made allegations related to the Qatar 2022 bid process and now retracting these allegations," said a statement.

Originally made anonymously to journalists, Al Majid's claims became the subject of an inquiry by the parliamentary select committee for culture, media and sport.

She says she is deeply sorry for the trouble she has caused World Cup officials in Qatar and the three Fifa executive committee members she accused of accepting bribes.

"I was very upset after I left the bid and wanted to basically hurt the bid back," she said.

"My intentions were to make a few headlines, I never expected that my lies would be carried on and discussed in parliament.

"It just went too far. I never expected it to come to this point. There was never anything suspicious or any wrongdoing on Qatar's part.

"I cannot tell you how sorry I am. I have hurt reputations of three members of the Fifa exco, I have hurt their reputation, and more importantly I have hurt my colleagues on the Qatar bid."

Caf president Issa Hayatou (left) and Jacques Anouma
Caf president Hayatou (left) and Anouma were accused of taking bribes

Al Majid originally said African Football Confederation president Issa Hayatou, Ivory Coast Fifa member Jacques Anomua and Nigeria's suspended exco official Amos Adamu were paid $1.5m to vote for Qatar.

The allegations were denied by all three men but were made public under parliamentary privilege when the Sunday Times submitted evidence from their investigation into Fifa to the select committee in May.

She was then invited to back up her claims in a meeting with Fifa president Sepp Blatter. But no meeting ever took place.

Al Majid also says she "tampered" with a Qatar 2022 bid strategy document which she then leaked to journalists.

She insists she was placed under no pressure or paid any money by Qatar 2022 to change her story. Officials on a new supreme committee for the World Cup, now overseeing preparations for the tournament, have told the BBC Al Majid first made contact with them on 5 June and that they didn't place her under any pressure or pay her to retract her story.

However, it must be stated that the BBC only interviewed Al Majid after being put in touch with her by Qatar bid officials, during research for a special report on the Qatar 2022 World Cup due to be broadcast on BBC2's Newsnight on Monday.

Her decision to retract her story could be embarrassing for the select committee who last week published a report on the 2018 and 2022 World Cup bids in which the MPs accused Fifa of treating corruption allegations with an "approach bordering on contempt".

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