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FIFA probing corruption allegations

LONDON, October 17- A FIFA investigation was under way on Sunday after a British newspaper reported senior officials had allegedly offered to sell their votes in the bidding race for the 2018 World Cup.An undercover investigation by The Sunday Times alleged that Amos Adamu, a Nigerian member of the world football governing body’s executive committee, asked for 800,000 dollars (570,000 euros) to endorse one of the bid candidates.

It filmed him meeting with undercover journalists posing as lobbyists for a United States business consortium, in which he apparently offered a "guarantee" to vote for the US bid in the 2018 event in return for cash.

The newspaper also alleged that Reynald Temarii, a FIFA vice-president and president of the Oceania Football Confederation, wanted three million New Zealand dollars (1.6 million euros, 2.3 million US dollars) for a sports academy.

He allegedly boasted that supporters of two bid committees had already offered Oceania money to swing his vote.

A FIFA statement said the body had requested access to the material gleaned in the newspaper probe and would investigate the matter.

"FIFA and the FIFA Ethics Committee have closely monitored the bidding process for the 2018 and 2022 FIFA World Cups and will continue to do so," a statement said.

"FIFA has already requested to receive all of the information and documents related to this matter, and is awaiting to receive this material.

"In any case, FIFA will immediately analyse the material available and only once this analysis has concluded will FIFA be able to decide on any potential next steps.

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"In the meantime, FIFA is not in a position to provide any further comments on this matter."

The paper said the bid committees had denied any wrongdoing. British media reported that FIFA is now thinking of postponing the December 2 vote on who will host the competitions in 2018 and 2022.

The nations in the running to host the 2018 World Cup are England, Russia, Spain-Portugal and Netherlands-Belgium.

For 2022, the contenders are Qatar, Australia, the United States, Japan and South Korea.

Musa Amadu, the acting secretary general of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF), said his organisation had not been in contact with FIFA since the allegations surfaced.

"We have only come across the allegation in the media and the reports say that FIFA are investigating so we just have to wait for the outcome of this investigation before we can issue a statement on the matter," he told AFP.

Britain’s Foreign Secretary William Hague said he was "very disturbed" by the allegations.

"Of course we want all the proceedings in the World Cup bid to be carried out in a way that is ethically correct and that therefore means that everybody can respect the process and respect the result," he said.

Any deals during the bidding process for a World Cup are strictly forbidden under FIFA’s rules, but the Sunday Times said six senior officials, past and present, had told reporters that paying bribes offered their best chance at securing a successful bid.

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The money requested by Adamu, the president of the West African Football Union, was intended to pay for four artificial football pitches in Nigeria, but he said it should be paid to him personally.

Gara Gombe, a veteran football administrator in Nigeria who has been a long-time critic of the NFF, said the country should have its own independent investigation into the allegations.

"This is an embarrasment not only to Amos Adamu but also to the country as a whole," Gombe told AFP. "Nigeria therefore has to set up an independent investigation."

The United States this week withdrew from the 2018 contest to focus its energy on its bid to win the 2022 event. There is no suggestion of impropriety on the part of their bid committee.

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