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updated 12/8/2011 12:51:34 PM ET 2011-12-08T17:51:34

The FBI is reportedly looking into allegations that hackers may have helped rig the bids to host the 2018 and 2022 soccer FIFA World Cup tournaments.

According to the London newspaper The Telegraph, FBI officials have "substantial evidence" that outside organizations tried to hack the email accounts of members of the English organizing committee bidding to host the 2018 tournament. England eventually lost out to Russia when the winning bids were announced a year ago.

The FBI probe reportedly is looking into similar claims that hackers tampered with the simultaneous U.S. bid to host the 2022 event, which went to the tiny oil-rich Persian Gulf state of Qatar.

FIFA, the French acronym for International Federation of Association Football, is the worldwide governing body for matches played among national  soccer teams. Despite the amateur roots of FIFA matches, the players on the top teams almost all also play for professional teams and each World Cup generates billions of dollars in income for the host country and for FIFA itself.

The FBI refused to comment to SecurityNewsDaily.

Over the past month in London, the FBI asked members of the England 2018 organizing committee specific questions related to the activities of their Russian counterparts, The Telegraph said.

The Russia 2018 organizing committee said it was unaware of any investigation, and that it had conducted its bidding fairly and transparently.

"We at Russia 2018 are proud of the way we conducted ourselves throughout a long and highly competitive campaign," the Russian organizing committee said, according to The Telegraph. "As an LOC [local organizing committee], we are driven by exactly the same transparency, commitment to excellence and spirit of fair play that underpinned our successful bid."

Also part of the FBI investigation, according to the Telegraph, is the alleged bribery of Caribbean soccer officials by Mohammed Bin Hammam, a Qatari who earlier this year was banned for life from all FIFA activities. It's believed bin Hammam offered bribes in exchange for votes in his campaign to replace current FIFA President Sepp Blatter.

Qatar won the 2022 hosting gig over bids from Australia, Japan, South Korea and the U.S.

 

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