Morocco MP, Journalist sentenced over World Cup scam

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A Moroccan parliamentarian and a journalist have been sentenced for embezzlement over tickets earmarked for the country’s supporters in last year’s World Cup in Qatar, a judicial source said Saturday.

Mohamed El Hidaoui, a member of parliament and football club owner, was sentenced to 18 months in jail by a Casablanca court, his lawyer Mohamed Ben Malek told AFP.

Hidaoui, a member of Prime Minister Aziz Akhannouch’s National Rally of Independents party, is the president of the first division Olympique Club de Safi.

He has been in custody since July 26, and was also fined 2,000 dirhams (190 euros), said Ben Malek, who added that he intends to appeal the sentence.

“I continue to affirm the innocence of my client who has not committed any crime,” the lawyer said. “I do not know why he has been put on trial.”

Radio sports journalist Adil El Omari was sentenced in the same case to 10 months in jail and fined 1,000 dirhams (95 euros), Ben Malek said.

He has been released on bail.

Both men were accused of attempted fraud and reselling tickets illegally.

Many fans who had travelled to Doha to support the Atlas Lions last year found themselves deprived of free tickets promised to them by the Moroccan Football Federation.

The tickets were sold on the black market at four or five times their face value, according to accounts gathered at the time by AFP.

The authorities in Morocco pledged to punish those responsible for the scam, and Hidaoui and Omari were detained in May this year.

Indignation caused by the scandal was all the greater as Morocco reached the semi-finals of the World Cup and met France.