A Fifa executive hired a private detective to "discredit" journalists at The Sunday Times after it published its report on the 'cash for votes'scandal, the newspaper claimed yesterday.
Fifa vice-president Reynald Temarii commissioned a 'secret inquiry'called Project Airtime shortly after the Times broke the story last October, the paper alleged.
It was reportedly written by Jean-Charles Brisard – a French investigator better known for his expertise on how Al-Qaeda is financed.
The Times claimed to have seen a copy of Brisard's report and said it showed the investigator 'researched details of the journalists' homes, families and work as well as obtaining a private hotel bill".
Temarii was one of six officials that were suspended after the Times' investigation, and Project Airtime was used as part of his defence in front of the governing body's ethics committee last November.
He was later banned from football for 12 months and fined 5,000 Swiss francs (£3,750) by the committee for breach of loyalty and confidentiality.
The newspaper claimed Brisard's report was 'strewn with elementary factual errors and misleading statements".
It said: 'On Friday, Temarii's lawyer [Geraldine Lesieur] issued a statement saying that Brisard had been hired to expose this newspaper's methods. She said the investigator's work demonstrated that the newspaper 'tried to manipulate Fifa's procedures with incomplete information'.
'This appears to be based on Brisard's analysis of a 17-page transcript that was provided to Fifa by this newspaper. The report says the transcript 'contains 153 errors and omissions, including significant changes in the meaning of several sentences'.
'Brisard then cites several sentences as examples, even though none of them appeared in the newspaper. He could have saved himself some work if he had read the letter this newspaper sent to Fifa along with the transcript.
'It said: 'In cases where we have provided transcripts, they are for your guidance only as they are our working transcripts. This means they may have words or phrases that are slightly wrong. The quotes used in the newspaper, however, are entirely accurate as they are checked many times over.'
Brisard told the newspaper he was not hired to discredit the journalists but to identify 'those responsible for raising allegations against Mr Temarii... and explore their methodology".
The Times did not name the journalists that had allegedly been investigated.