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Football: Bin Hammam blogger ordered to reveal sources

The blogger reported that a leaked internal audit detailed large payments to suspended Asian soccer chief Mohamed bin Hammam. -AFP

Fri, Sep 28, 2012

Above: Mohamed bin Hammam in a 2011 file photo

SINGAPORE - Singapore's High Court ordered a blogger to reveal his sources Friday after he reported that a leaked internal audit detailed large payments to suspended Asian soccer chief Mohamed bin Hammam.

Lawyers for James M. Dorsey, a Singapore-based academic and journalist, and the complainant, sports marketing company World Sport Group, both said the move was approved after a closed-door session lasting nearly four hours.

"The application was allowed pending appeal," Dorsey's lawyer N. Sreenivasan told AFP.

Dorsey had reported details on his blog, "The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer", of a leaked PricewaterhouseCoopers internal audit of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC), which he said listed payments to its president, bin Hammam.

The multi-million dollar payments were made before the Asian football body extended its exclusive marketing and media rights contract with Singapore-based World Sport Group, Dorsey said, in a deal reportedly worth $1 billion (S$1.22 billion).

WSG applied to the High Court to force Dorsey to reveal his source for the information, and any related documents, with the intention of launching possible defamation or breach of confidence proceedings.

"We want information so we can determine what charges to make and against whom," said Deborah Barker, senior counsel representing WSG.

Dorsey told AFP he was "disappointed" by the ruling, and confirmed that he planned to appeal.

"I'm disappointed at the court's ruling and will appeal it," said the German national, who is a senior fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies at Singapore's Nanyang Technological University.

The case has attracted press freedom concerns from Gianni Merlo, president of the Swiss-based international sports media association (AIPS), and comes at a time of renewed intrigue related to the bin Hammam situation.

This month, Kong Lee Toong, husband of former AFC finance director Amelia Gan, pleaded not guilty in a Malaysian court to charges of stealing a financial document of bin Hammam's from the body's Kuala Lumpur headquarters.

Qatar's Hammam, 63, has been suspended from football activities for more than a year, after FIFA's ethics committee found him guilty of bribery during his election campaign to replace the world body's president, Sepp Blatter.

The bribery case was seen as shedding a light on murky practices inside FIFA, and prompted new questions about Qatar's successful bid to host the 2022 World Cup, in which bin Hammam played a role. The bid, alongside others, is now under investigation.

However in July, bin Hammam's lifetime ban from football was overturned by the Court of Arbitration for Sport on grounds of insufficient evidence.

The Qatari multi-millionaire, 63, remains provisionally suspended by both FIFA and the AFC pending investigations into the Asian body's financial dealings.

WSG, which bills itself as "Asia's leading sports marketing, media and event management company", is majority-owned by French company Lagardere.

It also has global media rights for cricket's Indian Premier League and is the media and marketing partner of the OneAsia golf circuit.

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