How Amos Adamu’s son negotiated $1m ‘bribe’ with Qatar

Amos Adamu [Photo:vanguardngr.com]

 FIFA has commenced investigations into the scandal.

The Sunday Times of London has accused a former Nigerian sports administrator, Amos Adamu, and his son, Samson Adamu, of financial impropriety in the bidding for Qatar 2022 World Cup and has called on FIFA to probe the $1m bribery offer.

FIFA, the world football governing body, has now called on its top investigator has to examine evidence that the winners of the right to host the 2022 World Cup secretly offered $1m (N150 million) to Samson, whose father was then a member of FIFA’s executive committee.

Documents passed to FIFA by The Sunday Times show that the Qatar bid team offered the cash to Samson Adamu, 26.

The money was to fund a dinner and workshop on the eve of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, though it cost only a fraction of the sum offered.

The deal was brokered by Ali al-Thawadi, the Deputy Chief Executive of the Qatar bid, months before the contest in December 2010 to host the 2022 World Cup.

He denied knowledge of the offer when contacted (by The Sunday Times) last week. However, after being presented with the evidence, Qatar 2022 lawyers accepted there had been discussions and a contract had been drawn up, but said the team had later backed out of the deal after considering the “relevant FIFA rules”.

World Cup bidders are prohibited from entering into any financial relationship with relatives of the 24 FIFA executive committee members who vote to decide the world cup bidders.

FIFA said it had “immediately” passed the Sunday Times evidence to Michael Garcia, its chief ethics investigator, for examination.

The workshop

Samson Adamu seemed less than self-assured as he stood to address the candlelit ballroom packed with the great and the good of African football on the eve of the World Cup in Johannesburg in 2010.

The 26-year-old entrepreneur looked sharp in a well-cut black suit and a crisp white shirt, but he spoke falteringly as he welcomed the 300 eminent guests he had invited to a gala dinner celebrating the continent’s football legends.

Samson had every reason to feel on edge. The dinner was being hosted by a fledgling company he had set up just months before. He was straight out of university and had no experience of organising an event on anything close to this scale.

To add to the pressure, his formidable father, Amos Adamu, the FIFA grandee, was watching closely from a nearby table in full Nigerian costume as his son assured the glittering crowd that his company had “no commercial affiliates” and was driven by one pure goal: “To celebrate with you the achievement of our past football heroes.”

The reality was far less clear. As the guests’ sipped champagne, enjoyed live African music and their three-course dinner, they may not have stopped to wonder where their young host had found the funds to provide them with such a lavish evening of free entertainment.

Secret documents seen by The Sunday Times show that Samson had been offered $1m to arrange the dinner by the Qatar committee competing to host the 2022 World Cup, months before his father was due to vote on which bidder should be allowed to hold the tournament.

The bid

Amos Adamu was one of 24 members of the FIFA executive committee which decides where the World Cup is to be held — bestowing international recognition and billions of pounds in revenues upon the winner.

With so much at stake, the competition can get dirty and FIFA rules expressly prohibit bidders from entering into any financial relationship with the voters or their relatives to prevent improper attempts to influence the outcome.

This newspaper (The Sunday Times) has uncovered an extensive paper trail which shows how Qatar offered to pay Adamu’s son the seven-figure sum to host a dinner and workshop. In the end this cost about a fifth of the amount on the table.

Ali al-Thawadi, the deputy chief executive of the Qatar bid who had brokered the deal with Samson, denied any knowledge of the arrangement when he was first approached last week.

When presented with this newspaper’s evidence, Qatar admitted that the deal had been negotiated but said it had later pulled out after taking FIFA’s rules into consideration.

The funding of the glittering dinner remains shrouded in mystery. Invoices seen by this newspaper indicate that the event, called the African Legends’ gala dinner, cost about $220,000, a sum apparently way beyond the means of Samson’s company which had been set up months before with only £4,000 in share capital.

Qatar says it had no financial involvement, no other sponsors were publicly linked to the dinner and guests were not charged for their tickets.

The oil-rich Gulf state has been forced to fend off a string of bribery allegations since it won the right to host the 2022 finals in December 2010 — but no smoking gun has been found.

Qatar, a tiny nation of 1.6m people, won with the support of 14 FIFA Executive Committee members despite having no football tradition and the prospect of temperatures of up to 50 degree Celsius during the summer, when the competition will be held.

Its bid committee vastly outspent every competitor in its campaign and Jerome Valcke, the FIFA general secretary, admitted in a leaked email that Qatar had “bought the WC \”. He later said he was referring to the vast amount of money spent on marketing the bid.

Amos Adamu was secretly filmed by The Sunday Times in September 2010, three months after the African Legends’ dinner, offering to sell his vote on the 2018 World Cup for a payment of £800,000 into his personal bank account, which he said he would use to build football pitches in his native Nigeria. But his 2022 vote was not for sale because he had already pledged it to Qatar.

FIFA later sacked him from the executive committee. He was stripped of his World Cup vote and banned from football for three years.

This newspaper wrote to the Commons culture, media and sport select committee last year to report that it had also filmed three former FIFA grandees claiming Qatar was offering large sums of cash to African voters. The allegations have never been proven and are denied by Qatar.

The evidence that the Gulf state had secretly offered Adamu’s son a vastly inflated sum to host the African Legends’ dinner has emerged in emails and documents passed to The Sunday Times by a source working for a powerful figure in world football.

Payments to the relatives of officials are a sensitive area in world sport. The Olympic movement was engulfed by the worst scandal in its history when it emerged that the Salt Lake City team bidding to host the 2002 Winter Games had made payments which benefited a voter’s daughter.

The emails show how the plan for Qatar to pay Samson to host a football dinner was hatched between the young entrepreneur and Thawadi.

The pair first met at the Confederation of African Football, CAF, congress in the Angolan capital of Luanda in January 2010, which was sponsored by Qatar.

Thawadi emailed Samson five days later asking for the name of his “personal company” in order to send him a “contract and scope of work”. Soon after, Thawadi sent Samson a contract for the “Legends of African Football — Gala Dinner — Sponsorship”.

The document states that Qatar agreed to pay Samson’s company “a fee of US$1,000,000 (One million United States Dollars)” for “sponsorship rights” of the dinner to be held in June 2010 alongside a workshop for African journalists.

The agreement is between Kinetic Sports Association, a Swiss company which Samson planned to set up, and a “private institution” in Qatar “which is bidding to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup . . . and wishes to acquire certain exclusive rights in connection with the events in order to promote its bid to host the competition.”

The signatories on behalf of Qatar were to be Sheikh bin Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, the bid chairman and sixth son of the Emir, and Hassan al- Thawadi, the bid’s chief executive.

The next step was to get the elders of African football on side. Samson lobbied the CAF executive to get behind the dinner at a meeting in Lubumbashi, Democratic Republic of Congo, on February 20.

In an email to Ali Thawadi two days later, he enthused that CAF had assured him of its “total support and willingness to grace the occasion”. He went on: “Caf’s support is good in that it adds more credibility and prestige to our event.”

Samson then arranged a meeting with the Qataris at the Intercontinental hotel in London on March 4 to finalise the agreement. His Swiss lawyer, Daniel Magerle, was to fly over with him.

Emails show Magerle had offered to assist Samson by setting up a Swiss association and a bank account which could be used to channel the payment for the legends’ dinner. “The relationship to Switzerland would probably add a lot of additional credibility to the project,” he wrote.

Samson’s Nigerian company, Kinetic Sports Management, is registered at his father’s high-walled villa in a wealthy suburb of Abuja, Nigeria’s capital. His brother Philip, a dry cleaner by trade, is named as co-director.

By creating a separate Swiss entity called Kinetic Sports Association with its own bank account, the payment would have been placed at one remove from the family firm and cloaked by Switzerland’s secretive banking system.

Magerle encountered a snag, however. UBS, the Swiss bank, refused to open an account “as Swiss banks are very sensitive these days and international pressure has increased on certain matters”. He quickly offered a solution: Samson could ask for the cash to be paid into his own client account.

The email trail ends on March 2, two days before the planned meeting in London at which the contract was to be finalised, when Magerle emailed Samson to say he planned to book his flight the following morning.

When approached last week, the lawyer initially refused to comment. But after speaking to Samson he came back to say the meeting never took place because the deal had fallen through. Nor had he gone ahead with the plan to set up a Swiss association.

Magerle said he did not know why the deal had broken down or how the dinner had been financed, but he assumed Samson had found some other source of ready cash.

This newspaper’s investigation has found that shortly after the planned meeting in London, Samson had sub- contracted the organisation of the dinner to a South African sports event company called Champion Tours.

A prominent African journalist said Amos Adamu had approached him in March to ask for help in finding former football stars to honour at his son’s dinner. The journalist said he was later told by Samson that the event was to be paid for by “friends in Qatar”.

Sources close to the dinner say organisers were driven to distraction by the lack of co-ordination by Samson. No running order or table plan was organised and he did not arrive at the venue, the Vodaworld Events conference centre in Midrand, Johannesburg, until two hours before the gala was due to start.

At the 11th hour he announced that a further 30 places had to be added for extra guests and told the organisers to hire eight hostesses and have special costumes made. A seamstress had to work through the night to get the outfits ready.

Samson also brought in a fixer called Nadia Mihindou to help him with the dinner. When approached last week, she said the event was largely paid for with “private funds” arranged by Samson, but she did not know where the money had come from.

When told that Samson had been offered $1m by backers in Qatar to pay for the function, she responded incredulously: “Wow, what a number . . . honestly, if it was a $1m event I would know it.”

The dinner, held on July 8, was attended by eminent football figures including David Dein, the former Arsenal chairman, and Lennart Johansson, the former UEFA president.

The members of the CAF executive committee kept their promise to “grace” the event with their presence, as did about six FIFA executive committee members.

Around 20 famous African footballers, including Kalusha Bwalya, the former Zambian winger, and Jomo Sono, the former South African midfielder, were flown to Johannesburg and honoured at the dinner. The guests were welcomed by Issa Hayatou, the president of CAF, and Kirsten Nematandani, president of the South African FA.

An early guest list drawn up by Samson shows that a table of eight was initially reserved for Qatar 2022, but no one from the bid team attended.

It is not clear whether any of the powerful figures who attended ever knew of Qatar’s planned involvement, but there was a distinct air of discomfort when this newspaper raised questions about the dinner’s funding.

Nematandani’s face clouded when the subject was mentioned during a meeting with reporters at his office in Johannesburg earlier this month. He said he had no idea where Samson had found the funds to host the dinner but did not think it was his business to ask.

Asked if he would be surprised to learn that Qatar had offered to fund the event, he said: “It depends on how the news would reach me.”

Molefi Oliphant, a CAF executive committee member who had attended the dinner, became angry when a reporter asked how it was funded, telling her she was a “bad girl” and hanging up the telephone.

Neither Samson nor his father responded to detailed questions about the dinner or its mystery funders. Qatar has always insisted that it conducted its bid with the utmost propriety and within FIFA’s rules. It states categorically that it had no financial connection to the dinner and no one from the bid had attended.

The Sunday Times has complied with an official request by FIFA to hand over a cache of emails, invoices and documents relating to the legends’ dinner.

A FIFA spokesman said: “After receiving these documents, Fifa has immediately forwarded them to Michael J Garcia, independent ethics committee chairman of the investigatory branch. It will be for Michael Garcia to analyse the documents and decide on any potential next steps.”

Courtesy of ‘The Sunday Times of London‘ published on Sunday November 18.

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