There's regular corruption, and then there's over-the-top Teapot Dome-style bribery. The latter is what took place ahead of the controversial decision to award the 2018 and 2022 soccer World Cups to Russia and Qatar, according to a report submitted to British lawmakers. The report compiled by the Sunday Times claims "high-level intelligence gathering and surveillances" conducted in part by British embassies revealed wrongdoing, including a vote-swapping conspiracy between Russia and Qatar and the bribing of committee members with fine paintings allegedly taken from the Kremlin archives or a St. Petersburg museum, CNN reports. The report says Vladimir Putin took an active role in supporting the Russian bid, which was moved forward with the help of a huge gas deal with Qatar.
Key FIFA voting member Michel Platini was given a Picasso painting in return for supporting the Russian bid, according to the report, while another member admits being given a painting but says it was "absolutely ugly" and he believed it worthless. Russia and Qatar have both denied persistent reports of wrongdoing in relations to the bid, and they were recently cleared by a hotly contested FIFA probe, reports the BBC, which notes that while the latest reports of corruption may be brushed off, the "tawdry saga shows no sign of abating" for world soccer authorities. (As Qatar prepares for the 2022 Cup, Amnesty International warns that migrant workers building its infrastructure are being exploited and thousands could die in the race to complete construction projects.)