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Russia rejects new World Cup bribery charges as 'conspiracy theory'

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Russia rejects new World Cup bribery charges as 'conspiracy theory'
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Russia has flatly denied bribing a FIFA voter with millions of dollars to support the country's winning World Cup bid.

An indictment in the US District Court filed this week gave details of alleged bribes paid to top FIFA officials to vote for Russia and Qatar to the host the football tournaments in 2018 and 2022 respectively.

Prosecutors claim that Jack Warner of Trinidad and Tobago received $5 million in bribes to vote for Russia to host in 2018.

The money allegedly came from 10 different shell companies including entities in Cyprus and the British Virgin Islands, passing through accounts in the United States.

Detailing a new digital money trail, the fresh indictment said payments arrived in Trinidad and Tobago via “densely layered transactions between and among offshore accounts".

'Perfect conspiracy theory' says Moscow

But top Russian officials insisted Moscow had no part in bribing officials to win the World Cup hosting vote in December 2010.

“Russia received the rights to host the World Cup in an absolutely legal manner,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Tuesday. “This is not linked in any way to any bribes and we categorically deny it.”

“We, the bid committee, had nothing to do with this. ... It looks like a perfect conspiracy theory.” Russia's top soccer official Alexey Sorokin, who led the bid, told the Associated Press.

Russia easily won the vote to win the hosting of the 2018 tournament. Russian President Vladimir Putin, who was prime minister in 2010, made it a national priority to host soccer’s signature event.

Warner was an influential FIFA vice president at the time of Russia’s victory against three rival European bids.

Then president of the Northern Central American and Caribbean governing body Concacaf, he was first indicted in 2015 on financial corruption charges that included a separate $10 million bribe from 2010 World Cup host South Africa.

The US indictment unsealed in the Brooklyn court also says Guatemala federation president Rafael Salguero was promised a $1 million bribe to vote for Russia, He pleaded guilty in 2018 to charges alleging conspiracy over wire fraud, racketeering and money laundering.

Focus on Qatar over 2022 tournament

The new details of alleged bribes paid with respect to Qatar's bid to stage the 2022 World Cup could be even more significant, as the tournament has yet to take place and is in the final stages of preparation.

The US documents claim that Nicolas Leoz, then president of the South American governing body Conmebol, and former Brazil federation president Ricardo Teixeira, received bribes to vote for Qatar at the 2010 FIFA executive committee meeting.

Officials have previously been accused of corruption relating to the Gulf state's bid, but the indictment goes into more detail of the alleged bribery.

Specifically, it sets out how three South Americans on FIFA's executive committee -- Leoz, Teixeira and another unnamed official -- are said to have taken multi-million dollar bribes to vote for Qatar, via payments over broadcasting rights.

Qatar responded on Tuesday, describing the allegations as groundless and saying they would be "vigorously contested". Despite "years of false accusations", no proof had been established to show that the state won the right to host the World Cup in an illicit manner, it said.

FIFA said its executive committee had already imposed sanctions and was closely following the investigations.

FIFA's ethics committee found in 2014 that Russia and other candidates, including 2022 World Cup host Qatar, broke some bidding rules but they did not affect the results.