FBI interviews members of England’s 2018 World Cup bid team as part of its investigation into FIFA corruption
The Russian organising committee for the 2018 World Cup has denied that it hacked the email accounts of members of England’s bid for the tournament and those of the American bid for the 2022 edition of the tournament.
Members of the English bid have been questioned by the FBI as part of an investigation into allegations of corruption during the World Cup bidding process last December and the FIFA presidential election in June.
The Telegraph understands that the FBI has “substantial intelligence” of outside organisations attempting to hack the email accounts of the US bid and believe that England’s committee may have been affected.
However the Russian organising committee has denied that it had any knowledge of computer hacking or any dirty tricks.
“The LOC (local organising committee) has not been contacted regarding any investigation, nor have we been made aware that any such investigation exists,” said a statement. “We are driven by exactly the same transparency, commitment to excellence and spirit of Fair Play that underpinned our successful bid.”
Ever since Russia won the right to host the 2018 World Cup and Qatar was shockingly awarded the 2022 tournament, allegations of corruption have plagued football’s governing body and numerous members of FIFA’s Executive Committee have been accused or suspsended.
The FBI investigation relates to Mohammed Bin Hammam’s alleged bribery of Caribbean football officials to vote from him in the FIFA presidential elections, an act for which he was banned from football for life. The FBI is concerned that the money may have travelled through the US, a potential offence.
More than a game
“Hosting the World Cup is not only potentially financially rewarding for the country who wins the bid process, but also regarded as a prestigious accomplishment for the-powers-that-be that bring the competition to their shores,” commented Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at Sophos.
“The depressing truth is that we would probably not be surprised if we heard that healthy competition and rivalry to host one of the world’s biggest sporting events was soiled by dirty tricks and computer hacking,” he continued. “Whether the allegations prove to be true or not, it’s clear that those involved in such bids need to secure their computers and email accounts just as much as big businesses and government departments.”
Sporting events are becoming increasingly important targets for cybercrime, prompting the government to promise “unprecedented levels” of cyber security for the 2012 Olympic Games next summer.
This is not the first such accusation to be levied at Russian institutions this year. Earlier this week it emerged that Russian opposition websites which attempted to expose election fraud had been attacked and in April, the Russian Federal Security Service announced its intention to ban Skype, Gmail and Hotmail on national security grounds, although it later backed down.