FIFA criminal complaint reignites World Cup row

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PARIS: Controversy over the awarding of the next two World Cups took a fresh twist on Tuesday as football’s world governing body FIFA lodged a criminal complaint over “possible misconduct” by individuals in connection with the bids.

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FIFA president Sepp Bladder has acted on the advice of judge Hans-Joachim Eckert, whose final summary of the Garcia investigation cleared Russia and Qatar to host the 2018 and 2022 tournaments.

The complaint lodged with the Swiss attorney general is the latest turn in a saga that has rumbled on since the tournaments were controversially awarded to both countries in December 2010.

“The subject of the criminal complaint is the possible misconduct of individual persons in connection with the awarding of the hosting rights of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups investigated by Michael Garcia, chairman of the investigatory chamber of the FIFA Ethics Committee,” FIFA said in a statement.

“In particular there seem to be grounds for suspicion that, in isolated cases, international transfers of assets with connections to Switzerland took place, which merit examination by the criminal prosecution authorities.”

Garcia, a former New York federal prosecutor, spent 18 months investigating the bidding process for the two tournaments.

FIFA last week published a resume of Garcia’s report and cleared Russia and Qatar of corruption while ruling out a re-vote for the tournaments despite widespread allegations of wrongdoing.

Garcia however slammed that version of his report as “incomplete and erroneous” and has lodged an appeal with FIFA.

The Garcia report will be handed over to the attorney general’s office by Eckert but he and Blatter remain adamant it cannot be published.

Blatter told FIFA’s website: “There is no change to judge Eckert’s statement that the investigation into the bidding process for the 2018 and 2022 FIFA World Cups is concluded.

“The matter will now also be looked at by an independent, state body, which shows that FIFA is not opposed to transparency.”

Asked about the publication of the report, he added: “If FIFA were to publish the report, we would be violating our own association law as well as state law. The people who are demanding in the media and elsewhere that FIFA publish the report are obviously of the opinion that FIFA should or must ignore the law in this regard.

“Unlike FIFA’s bodies, the Swiss criminal prosecution authorities have the ability to conduct investigations under application of criminal procedural coercive measures.”

Eckert, president of FIFA’s ethics committee, who advised Blatter to lodge the criminal complaint, reiterated Tuesday that “there is insufficient incriminating evidence to call into question the whole bidding process” for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.

“Nevertheless, there are indications of potential illegal or irregular conduct in certain areas, which must now be followed up both internally by FIFA and by the relevant national criminal prosecution authorities.”

The German judge dismissed talk of a “whitewash”.

“I would like to point out that not once did my statement involve a so-called ‘whitewashing’ of the award process with regard to the various allegations and assumptions made, contrary to what has been claimed in some quarters,” said Eckert.

“My statement was based on the Garcia report –- I can only work with the material contained in it, and in my view, there was insufficient clear evidence of illegal or irregular conduct that would call into question the integrity of the award process as a whole.

“However, in certain places, the report does indicate that further clarification is needed of certain circumstances. Much of this clarification work can be carried out by the FIFA Ethics Committee itself, while the remainder is the responsibility of the relevant national investigatory authorities.”

If according to Blatter “the investigation into the bidding process for the 2018 and 2022 FIFA World Cups is concluded,” world football’s boss confirmed that the affair is far from over.

“Michael Garcia can of course still conduct further internal FIFA investigations into individuals if he deems this to be necessary in the light of his report,” said the 78-year-old Swiss.

AFP

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