AP Sports Writer
LONDON (AP) - FIFA stepped up investigations into alleged bribery by Mohamed bin Hammam on Thursday by banning the former presidential candidate from soccer for 90 days.
FIFA said its new independent prosecutor Michael Garcia wanted bin Hammam suspended while he examines an audit detailing alleged financial mismanagement of Asian Football Confederation accounts and billion-dollar commercial contracts during the Qatari official's leadership.
"The decision was taken ... in order to prevent interference with the establishment of the truth in respect of a preliminary investigation," FIFA said in a statement.
Garcia also is searching for new evidence that bin Hammam bribed Caribbean voters during his challenge to Sepp Blatter last year, FIFA said.
Bin Hammam had his life ban from soccer overturned last week by the Court of Arbitration for Sport last week which decided that FIFA failed to prove its case.
Three days before the verdict, the Asian soccer body ensured that bin Hammam could not immediately return to office by imposing a 30-day ban while it studies the audit it commissioned.
FIFA's new suspension acts as a second blocking tactic, and denies him his seat at the FIFA executive committee table when it next meets in Zurich on Sept. 27-28.
Bin Hammam, who joined FIFA's executive committee in 1996, was elected as AFC president nine years ago and used his status as a platform to challenge his former ally Blatter.
The AFC audit, which was leaked to international media, alleged that Bin Hammam enriched himself, handed out hundreds of thousands of dollars to friends and relatives and awarded long-term, no-bid television rights at below market rates.
Auditors from a Pricewaterhouse Coopers unit in the AFC's home city of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, advised the soccer body to start legal action against bin Hammam.
FIFA's latest probe is the first launched by Garcia since the Manhattan-based former U.S. lawyer was appointed as the soccer body's first anti-corruption prosecutor last week. Garcia is also "assessing the prospects of collecting further evidence" in relation to the case that CAS ruled on last week.
The CAS verdict revealed that FIFA tried to stall the court's verdict by offering the Asian audit as additional evidence against bin Hammam. The court rejected FIFA's attempts to stack up further allegations against him.
Despite ruling in favor of bin Hammam, the CAS panel declined to pronounce him innocent of bribery. The ruling said he was "more likely than not" the source of almost $1 million in cash which was offered as $40,000 payments to Caribbean soccer leaders after an electioneering visit to Trinidad in May 2011.
Bin Hammam withdrew his FIFA candidacy before it suspended him days ahead of polling. Blatter ran unopposed to get a fourth and final four-year term in office.
(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)
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