World football has been thrown into chaos after a court overturned Mohamed Bin Hammam's lifetime ban - raising fresh questions about Sepp Blatter's unopposed election as FIFA president.
The ruling by the Court of Arbitration for Sport is a huge embarrassment to FIFA, whose ethics committee imposed the lifetime ban one year ago. The 63-year-old Qatari has been not proven innocent by CAS, instead the appeal has been upheld on the grounds of insufficient evidence.
FIFA can bring fresh proceedings against Bin Hammam if the revamped ethics committee has any new evidence. Bin Hammam always claimed the FIFA action against him was retribution for having challenged Blatter for the presidency. He told BBC World Service: "I promise you I will not quit until I clear my name."
He added: "I have one aim, one mission. one target and that is to clear my name and then I say goodbye."
Bin Hammam was found guilty by FIFA's ethics committee last year of paying bribes to Caribbean Football Union officials at a meeting in Trinidad last year while campaigning against Blatter for the FIFA presidency.
Jack Warner, who quit as FIFA vice-president after the scandal broke, told officials gifts of 40,000 US dollars each and totalling around one million US dollars had come from Bin Hammam.
Bin Hammam is still subject to a 30-day temporary suspension by the Asian Football Confederation - the body of which he was president - which has been extended worldwide by FIFA.
The CAS panel made its decision by a 2:1 majority and said in its ruling there was no direct evidence to link Bin Hammam with the money's physical presence in Trinidad. It also questioned why no attempt had been made to trace the banknotes that were photographed. FIFA had hired former FBI director Louis Freeh's firm to investigate the Trinidad payments.
The CAS panel added that "it is more likely than not that Mr Bin Hammam was the source of the monies" and that "his conduct, in collaboration with and most likely induced by Mr Warner, may not have complied with the highest ethical standards that should govern the world of football and other sports".
CAS stressed it was not finding Bin Hammam innocent but that the case was "not proven". FIFA expressed their concern at the CAS ruling, and said all files will now be handed over to the new ethics committee, which will decide if any new action is to be taken against Bin Hammam.