Nov 19, 2014 7:53 PM

Denouncing FIFA, whistleblower fears for safety

The Associated Press

LONDON (AP) A whistleblower in the World Cup bidding controversy fears her treatment by FIFA will prevent people from coming forward with allegations of corruption and says she was approached three years ago by the FBI, which was worried about her safety.

Former Qatar bid worker Phaedra Almajid has complained to FIFA that her right to witness confidentiality in the bidding investigation was breached in an ethics report last week, claiming she was easily identifiable even though she wasn't named.

Almajid, who lives in Washington, D.C., and worked in the bid team's media department, also is angry the report by FIFA judge Hans-Joachim Eckert said she and Australian whistleblower Bonita Mersiades lacked credibility.

"After what they've done to me and Bonita, who else is going to want to come forward and be a FIFA whistleblower?" Almajid said Wednesday during a telephone interview with The Associated Press. "I wish what happened to me as a whistleblower never happens again to anyone. I would never wish this on anyone."

Almajid alleged in 2011 that three FIFA executive committee members were paid $1.5 million each to vote for Qatar. She was named in a July 2011 statement in which she retracted her claims of corruption but says she was coerced to do so by unidentified Qatari officials.

Almajid said about two months after she signed that retraction, American law enforcement officials visited her house because they became aware her safety was in danger.

"The FBI came to me because they knew my security was being threatened and to protect me," Almajid said from Washington. She did not give details of the threats.

"The FBI wanted me to get in contact with the Qataris so that they could admit the fact there was a deal between me and them," she added. "They recorded me speaking to a senior official from Qatar. The senior official admitted there was a deal for (retracting) the affidavit and they would provide a letter saying they wouldn't sue me."

Supervisory Special Agent Martin Feely of the FBI's New York office did not respond to an email seeking comment.

Qatar repeatedly has denied any wrongdoing in bringing the World Cup to the Middle East for the first time by winning the 2010 vote.

Almajid said she remains concerned about her safety.

"Being a whistleblower has changed my life and my kids' lives. I will be looking over my shoulder until 2022 is over," she said.

Though not named by Eckert, Almajid was easily identified in a section covering Qatar titled "Role and Relevance of a 'Whistleblower'" based on her 2011 statements.

Eckert, who assessed evidence from FIFA prosecutor Michael Garcia, concluded in his 42-page report the whistleblower "altered evidence" to support the allegations and had not "relied on any information or material."

"He discredited me and breached the confidentiality agreement we had," she said. She added: "This has cost me dearly. I am ready to keep fighting for the truth to be known and for what happened to me not to happen to anyone else."


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