Lausanne, Switzerland: Former FIFA presidential candidate Mohamed bin Hammam won his case against a life ban from football on Thursday for allegedly bribing voters during his challenge to Sepp Blatter.
However, the Court of Arbitration for Sport said its panel was not convinced bin Hammam is innocent of corruption — but it overturned the ban because FIFA's investigation failed to find conclusive evidence.
"It is a situation of 'case not proven,' coupled with concern on the part of the Panel that the FIFA investigation was not complete or comprehensive enough to fill the gaps in the record," sport's highest court said in a statement.
The panel, which was split 2-1 in bin Hammam's favor, "is not making any sort of affirmative finding of innocence in relation to Mr. Bin Hammam."
FIFA got evidence from Caribbean whistleblowers who said they were offered $40,000 cash bribes during the 63-year-old Qatari's campaign visit to Trinidad.
Bin Hammam denied wrongdoing, claiming Blatter helped orchestrate a scandal to guarantee his election victory a few weeks later.
CAS said "it is more likely than not that Mr. Bin Hammam was the source of the monies that were brought into Trinidad and Tobago" at an election campaign rally in May 2011.
FIFA's newly appointed prosecutor could also re-open the probe if new evidence comes forward, the court suggested.
Bin Hammam launched his bid to lead football's governing body last year just months after helping Qatar win 2022 World Cup hosting rights.
However, bin Hammam cannot immediately return to office as president of the Asian Football Confederation, which imposed a 30-day suspension on him this week.
Bin Hammam faces new charges of bribery and financial management which the AFC claims was revealed in a forensic audit of the governing body's accounts.
The new allegations also block bin Hammam from retaking his seat at FIFA's executive committee table.
Bin Hammam has represented Asia's football authority on FIFA's executive committee since 1996. He was elected AFC president in 2002, and was serving his final four-year mandate when the FIFA election scandal rocked world football.