By Andrew Warshaw

Mohammed bin Hammam 051212December 5 - The ongoing probe into alleged malpractice by Asian football powerbroker Mohamed Bin Hammam, which has seriously split his increasingly dysfunctional confederation, reaches a crucial stage within the next 48 hours during which FIFA-appointed United States investigators must decide what action to take against him, if any.

With the tension rising over whether Bin Hammam (pictured top) can eventually clear his name and be allowed to return to the corridors of power, FIFA has confirmed to insidethegames that the current 45-day ban on the 63-year-old Qatari expires on Friday (December 7) and that the next steps "will be determined at the appropriate time by the competent bodies".

That effectively means the FIFA Ethics Committee, the investigative half of which is chaired by US lawyer Michael Garcia, and the adjudicatory half-chaired by German judge Hans-Joachim Eckert.

With painstaking detail, Garcia's investigative team - the omnipresent Freeh Group -  have been looking into allegations that Bin Hammam seriously mismanaged Asian Football Confederation (AFC) finances during the nine years he was President, allegations he has persistently and fiercely denied.

Garcia has also been seeking new evidence that Bin Hammam - a former FIFA vice-president who was a member of its Executive Committee for 15 years - bribed Caribbean voters during his election challenge to FIFA President Sepp Blatter last year.

insidethegames has been advised by Caribbean sources that no new evidence was found.

Michael Garcia 05-1212Michael Garcia's investigative team have been looking into allegations that Mohamed Bin Hammam seriously mismanaged AFC finances

Bin Hammam's life ban for that alleged bribery was lifted by Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in July through lack of sufficient evidence but the ruling made it clear that a further inquiry was permissible if new evidence was produced.

Although he recently lost a separate CAS appeal against being suspended while all the claims against him are being examined, Bin Hammam has waged a relentless legal challenge claiming he has done nothing wrong and that the investigations are entirely politically motivated.

The issue now is whether by Friday, after imposing a series of back-to-back suspensions, Garcia, or Eckert, announces there is enough additional incriminating material to further ban Bin Hammam.

To make matters even more intriguing, the AFC last week announced plans to elect a new President before April next year to replace Bin Hammam who has been out of office for 18 months fighting the corruption claims.

Should the election be approved by the AFC's legal department and should Bin Hammam's long campaign for justice fail, it would bring to an end the turbulent reign of a man whose supporters say revolutionised Asian football but whose critics accuse of giving preferential treatment to some federations over others.

Contact the writer of this story at [email protected]

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