Bin Hammam: Guilty verdict likely in bribery case

Zurich: Mohamed bin Hammam believes FIFA has already decided to find him guilty of bribing voters in his presidential contest against Sepp Blatter but insists that "justice will eventually prevail."

"None of us should be completely surprised if a guilty verdict is returned," bin Hammam said on his personal website on Friday as his case was being heard by a five-man FIFA ethics panel, which sat in session until 10 p.m. local time.

Bin Hammam did not appear to have taken part in the hearing. He previously pledged to give the panel "convincing grounds" to clear him of allegations he conspired to pay Caribbean soccer leaders $40,000 cash bribes at a May 10 meeting in Trinidad.

"I am not confident that the hearing will be conducted in the manner any of us would like. It seems likely that FIFA has already made its decision weeks ago," he said in his statement on Friday.

A verdict is expected on Saturday, with bin Hammam facing a possible life ban from the sport.

The Qatari official said FIFA`s case and evidence were "flimsy and will not stand up to scrutiny in any court of law."

"Justice will eventually prevail whether through the FIFA ethics committee, the Court of Arbitration of Sport or if necessary, through other courts or legal proceedings in courts where we will be equal and no special privileges will be granted to either party," bin Hamman said.

FIFA said it could not comment on which defendants and witnesses were present, in order to uphold the independence of the ethics committee.

The Swiss Federal Tribunal, the supreme court in FIFA`s home nation, could eventually be asked to decide if Blatter`s organization abused legal process during the case. FIFA does not recognize the authority of any other ordinary courts in football-related disputes.

Bin Hammam and two Caribbean Football Union staffers, Debbie Minguell and Jason Sylvester, face allegations of bribery conspiracy. Minguell and Sylvester did not attend initial ethics hearings in May and were not expected in Zurich this weekend.

FIFA invited all three defendants to submit written statements, and produce their own witnesses at the hearing.

FIFA dropped charges against vice president Jack Warner last month when he resigned all his soccer positions with a "presumption of innocence."

Bin Hammam has criticized the integrity of FIFA`s investigation and legal processes. He claims the bribery case was politically motivated to stop him from challenging Blatter, who was at his FIFA office on Friday.

Bin Hammam has also been critical of FIFA`s top administrator, Jerome Valcke, for his handling of the news conference on May 29 after the ethics court first met to weigh evidence and imposed provisional suspensions. Blatter was re-elected unopposed three days later

Bin Hammam later described secretary general Valcke`s behavior as "absolutely unacceptable and against all principles of justice."

Neither Blatter nor Valcke will be at FIFA on Saturday when the verdicts are delivered.

FIFA said Blatter would travel to Argentina to attend the Copa Americas final on Sunday, and Valcke was in Brazil ahead of the 2014 World Cup qualifying draw on July 30.

Bin Hammam has also questioned why no Caribbean officials alleged to have pocketed bribes have yet been charged.

FIFA`s ethics panel could call for new investigations into CFU members after it rules on bin Hammam`s case.

Bureau Report

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