KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) -Acting Asian Football Confederation president Zhang Jilong has accused his suspended predecessor Mohammed bin Hammam of intimidation to cover up wrongdoing during his tenure as chief.
Jilong has written to AFC member associations dismissing claims made by bin Hammam in an Oct. 8 letter - issued by his US-based lawyer Eugene Gulland - which said Jilong had a "conflict of interest in the ongoing AFC Disciplinary Committee action against bin Hammam" and that "he personally benefited from his support".
"The accusations in Mr. Gulland's letter are total fabrications designed to tear apart the Asian Football Confederation, divide this family and paralyze our institution. Mr. Gulland's allegations are aimed at confusing and delaying the Disciplinary Action against his client," Jilong said in a statement late Wednesday.
The veteran Chinese administrator added that at no stage had he interfered with the ongoing disciplinary action against bin Hammam, who was "being dealt with as provided for under the AFC Statutes and the AFC Disciplinary Code".
Bin Hammam had a lifetime ban from the football overturned in court in July. That ban was initially imposed after FIFA found he had bribed Caribbean voters when he challenged Sepp Blatter for the FIFA presidency.
"Mr. bin Hammam and Mr. Gulland do not want the Asian Football Confederation to consider the evidence that now exists and for which Mr. bin Hammam must answer," Jilong said. "Their plan is to intimidate and create technical legal issues and objections in the hope that the more serious allegations of secret commissions, bribery, corruption and other wrong-doings are never exposed to the light of day.
"They seem willing to use any means to accomplish their goal. It is my belief that Mr. Gulland has lost sight of the boundaries of permissible professional conduct as a lawyer."
Jilong, who served as an AFC vice president from 2002 to 2011, said the AFC is investigating whether there are sufficient legal grounds to file an ethics violation against Gulland to stop "improper legal defense tactics intended only to interfere with the independent functions of the AFC judicial bodies."