Paris: World football governing body FIFA announced Wednesday they have opened a corruption probe into four officials including Qatar`s Mohamed Bin Hammam and Trinidadian Jack Warner.
They are accused of possible fraud and ethics violations in connection with the forthcoming election for the FIFA presidency on June 1 when Bin Hammam will challenge former ally Joseph Blatter, who is seeking a fourth and final four-year term.
Bin Hammam, 61, is currently president of the Asian Football Confederation while Warner, 68, is FIFA vice-president and CONCACAF president.
The probe also concerns Caribbean Football Union (CFU) officials Debbie Minguell and Jason Sylvester.
The defence of the four will be heard on May 27 and they will appear before FIFA`s ethics committee in Zurich on May 29.
The affair follows information concerning possible violations of the FIFA Code of Ethics brought to the attention of FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke by US executive committee member Chuck Blazer, who is also CONCACAF secretary general, on May 24.
"In particular, the report referred to a special meeting of the Caribbean Football Union (CFU), apparently organised jointly by FIFA Vice-President Jack A. Warner and FIFA Executive Committee member Mohamed bin Hammam, which took place on 10 and 11 May 2011. This meeting was linked to the upcoming FIFA presidential election," FIFA said in a statement.
"In view of the facts alleged in this report, which include bribery allegations, FIFA Secretary General Jerome Valcke, in compliance with art. 16 of the FIFA Code of Ethics, yesterday requested the FIFA Ethics Committee to open ethics proceedings."
Bin Hammam, who has made the fight against corruption the cornerstone of his bid to unseat Blatter, has also been forced to deny allegations aired in the British parliamentary inquiry that his native country Qatar paid large bribes to secure hosting rights for the 2022 World Cup.
This latest probe boosts 75-year-old Blatter`s bid for a fourth term with South America, Ocenia and Europe already expressing their support for the Swiss incumbent.