Qatar are likely be stripped of the 2022 World Cup, according to a former senior figure in their bid team, who turned whistleblower to expose corruption.
Speaking to the Daily Mail yesterday, Phaedra Almajid says the weight of evidence of wrongdoing from her and others will be so overwhelming that FIFA will be left with no option but to find another host.
Almajid has been under protective custody of the FBI and she fears her safety will be compromised further if the tournament is taken away from the tiny oil-rich state, who shocked the world by winning the right to stage the 2022 event in 2010.
While hoping justice is done, Almajid admits that the prospect ‘scares me a lot’ because some ‘extremists’ may feel she played a role in that happening.
She said: ‘There are people who are p***** off with me [for speaking out], and what really p***** them off is that I’m a female, Muslim whistleblower.’
Another consequence of recent events, Almajid believes, is that outgoing FIFA president Sepp Blatter may try to take 2022 from Qatar as part of a radical reform agenda designed to win him praise ‘and save his skin.’
Speaking for the first time since Blatter announced he wants a new election to pick his successor Almajid said: ‘I just don’t think Blatter actually intends to quit. Everything he does is very calculated. He’ll try very hard to save himself, I’m sure of it.’
Almajid, an Arab-American now based in the US, worked for Qatar’s 2022 bid team until early 2010.
She told the Mail on Sunday last year that a subsequent retraction of her allegations was coerced. In fear of her safety for herself and her family - she has two children, one of them severely disabled - she was taken into the protective custody of the FBI.
The FBI are leading the investigation which has led to 14 arrests, with even more expected. ‘The FBI have everything,’ she said.
Almajid also co-operated fully with a FIFA-funded probe led by Michael Garcia, a former US attorney for New York.
When another FIFA official, Hans-Joachim Eckert, released a summary of Garcia’s findings last November, Eckert claimed there were ‘serious concerns’ about Almajid’s credibility.
She had been guaranteed anonymity by Garcia. Instead she saw Eckert’s summary as a clear attempt by FIFA to smear her.
‘I’m still furious with the way I was portrayed,’ she says. ‘I was stupid enough to trust that FIFA wanted to find the truth.’
Almajid insists that her anger today, however, is most intense on behalf of others who have been victims of human rights violations in Qatar, across many different sectors of society. This anger in turn is also aimed at FIFA, a body that handed Qatar the 2022 World Cup.
One case of agonising personal interest to Almajid involves the deaths of 13 children in a fire at a nursery in a shopping mall in Qatar’s capital, Doha, in 2012.
Among those killed were two-year-old triplets Lillie, Jackson and Wilsher Weekes, whose parents Martin and Jane have become close friends with Almajid through their own quest for justice in Qatar.
The couple are from New Zealand although Mr Weekes is British-born. Among many shocking aspects of their case is that a member of Qatar’s royal family, Sheikh Ali Bin Jasim Bin Al Thani, owned the nursery where the Weekes’ children died, and was convicted in a Qatari court in 2013 of involuntary manslaughter and sentenced to six years in jail. But he has not served a day of that sentence and instead continues in his role as Qatar’s ambassador to Belgium, and to the European Union.
There has been no official explanation as to why he remains at liberty. The issue will be considered at a United Nations Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva later this month.
Almajid says: ‘The Qataris don’t care about human rights. There are human rights violations being made across Qatari society and they make promises to fix them - and they break every promise.
‘The have said there will be justice for the family of the triplets who died in that fire and there has been none. Instead the man responsible is an ambassador.
‘The Qataris promise they will fix the human rights abuses around the labour being used to prepare for the World Cup. They haven’t and I don’t believe they will.
‘The Qataris don’t keep their promises. They won’t keep promises on human rights. I lived there and worked there for seven years and I know that the royal family there hate one thing more than anything - being publicly shamed. They should be shamed for the treatment of the Weekes family.
‘As for FIFA, they talk of reform but the biggest reform they should make in the process around the World Cup is to introduce a human rights pillar. The World Cup should not be awarded to countries that don’t respect human rights.'
Phaedra Almajid blows the whistle on Qatar:
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