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Russia, Qatar strongly deny new US allegations on World Cup bids

World Cup fans in 2010. (State Department/Released)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

Russia and Qatar have denied fresh allegations of paying millions of dollars in bribes for the rights to host World Cup football tournaments.

According to a new U.S. Justice Department indictment, FIFA officials received bribes to vote in favor of awarding the 2018 tournament to Russia and the 2022 tournament to Qatar.

Investigations and rumors have long surrounded both awards, but the indictment released on April 6 added new direct, formal allegations regarding both tournaments.

Qatar’s Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy (SC) said in a statement that it “strongly denies the allegations contained within the court papers,” while the Kremlin said it “absolutely legally got the right” to host the 2018 global football spectacle.

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The U.S. legal action is linked to a wide-ranging 2015 corruption scandal that left world governing body FIFA in turmoil and led to the downfall of its president at the time, Sepp Blatter.

“Russia absolutely legally got the right to organize the World Cup,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said. “We reject this.”

Aleksei Sorokin, chief executive of the local organizing committee for Russia’s 2018 World Cup, told the Interfax news agency it was “only the opinion of lawyers” and his committee has “repeatedly said that our bid was transparent.”

The indictment said high-ranking FIFA official Jack Warner of Trinidad and Tobago received $5 million in bribes to vote for Russia. The payments allegedly came from 10 different offshore shell companies, which used correspondent accounts in the United States.

Warner was first indicted in 2015 on financial corruption charges that included a separate $10 million bribe from 2010 World Cup host South Africa. He was an influential FIFA vice president at the time of Russia’s selection for the 2018 event.

In 2014, FIFA’s ethics committee found that Russia and other candidates, including Qatar, broke some bidding rules but they did not affect the results.

Warner has been fighting extradition to face racketeering conspiracy charges in the United States since 2015, the same year FIFA banned him for life. He has always denied wrongdoing.

FIFA said in a statement it supported all investigations into “alleged acts of criminal wrongdoing,” noting that its own ethics committee has already imposed sanctions, including life bans, on football officials mentioned in this process.