- The Washington Times - Monday, April 20, 2009

KUWAIT CITY (AP) - The Olympic Council of Asia is threatening legal action over allegations it attempted to buy votes for a seat on FIFA’s executive committee.

“Clearly, the OCA cannot leave such accusations unanswered and is now preparing to undertake legal action,” the continental Olympic committee said in a statement.

FIFA’s ethics commission is investigating claims made by one of its panel members that the OCA was offering inducements to support Bahrain’s Shaikh Salman bin Ebrahim Khalifa in his campaign against Asian Football Confederation president Mohamed bin Hammam of Qatar for the FIFA executive committee position.

The vote will be held May 8 in Kuala Lumpur and the leadup has become increasingly spiteful, with backers of both candidates making allegations against the other.

“The OCA has completely and absolutely denied the allegations leveled on it with regard to the rumors concerning the AFC elections,” the OCA statement said.



The OCA said it was informed of the allegations last Thursday and responded immediately, “denying the baseless accusations and requested FIFA to name the source.”

Petrus Damaseb, a judge from Namibia who is the acting head of FIFA’s anti-corruption watchdog, ordered an investigation after his ethics panel received complaints about both candidates. He said the open dispute between such high-ranking officials was unprecedented.

“Some parties have already been requested to provide us with the necessary information so that at least we have a first-hand account,” he said. “I will if necessary give further directions and say, ‘Look, I think this is not enough, get a statement from this other one.’”

Les Murray, a FIFA ethics commission member and broadcaster from Australia, confirmed to The Associated Press that he had reliable information about the OCA’s alleged approaches to soccer associations in Asia regarding the election and thought it serious enough to make a report to the sport’s world governing body.

“It’s really in FIFA’s domain now _ I can’t comment on the whole issue,” he said.

The Asian election dispute prompted FIFA president Sepp Blatter to call for both sides to observe fair play.

Bin Hammam has said he believes Korean soccer officials are driving his opponent’s election campaign, and alleges they made offers of cash grants to Asian soccer associations to vote for Shaikh Salman.

The Korean FA said Bin Hamman used a phrase in a Qatari television interview that could be translated as threatening to cut off the head of its president Cho Chung-yeon. Bin Hammam compared the expression with the English version “heads will roll.”

The OCA said the vote-buying allegation made to FIFA was based on an interview Bin Hammam gave to Australia’s SBS TV network “where he leveled allegations on OCA without any proof, which is a part of his unwise campaign and has created a division in football in the Asian continent.”

“The OCA further expects new accusations and rumors from Bin Hammam till the elections are completed on 8th May 2009 which is part of his election strategy,” the OCA statement said.

___

AP Sports Writer John Pye in Australia contributed to this report.

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