Investigators from world soccer’s governing body will meet with every country that bid for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups as part of a probe into possible violations of FIFA’s code of ethics.
Michael Garcia, a former U.S. Attorney for New York, is leading the inquiry, but Cornel Borbely will take over areas involving Russian and American bids for the events to avoid a conflict of interest for Garcia, according to an e-mailed statement from his law firm, Kirkland & Ellis LLP.
“Our role, in this or any other matter, is to investigate potential violations of the FIFA Code of Ethics,” the investigatory panel said in the statement. “We will consider any allegations and evidence indicative of such violations, and we urge anyone with potentially relevant information to contact us now.”
The probe into the award of the 2018 World Cup to Russia and the 2022 event to Qatar will “extend at least several months into 2014,” the panel said. Garcia was hired in 2012 as FIFA attempted to improve its ability to investigate wrongdoing.
Mark Pieth, a Swiss law professor picked by FIFA to study the way the organization is governed, said last year that investigators should look at the selection of the World Cup hosts. Only 22 out of the eligible executive board members voted after two were suspended for allegedly offering to sell their votes to undercover reporters posing as businessmen.
Only 13 of the executive board that made the World Cup host selections remain at FIFA, with some resigning and others expelled.
Michel Platini, the head of European soccer, said he voted for Qatar. While former French president Nicolas Sarkozy invited the ex-player to meet with the emir of Qatar, Platini said he would have supported Qatar without Sarkozy’s backing. Last month FIFA President Sepp Blatter said some members’ voting was affected by political influence.
Qatar says its bid was within guidelines. The Gulf state spent more than any other bidder to support its effort, and hired former World Cup winner Zinedine Zidane and current Bayern Munich coach Pep Guardiola to act as ambassadors.
In February 2011, Blatter said Qatar and Spain, a bidder for the 2018 World Cup, shared “a bundle of votes.” Spain’s FIFA member Angel Maria Villar Llona has confirmed he voted for Qatar.
The scope of Garcia’s power is limited. The American, who led the investigation that led to Eliot Spitzer’s resignation as New York governor in 2008, can only compel individuals within soccer to speak with him. The World Cup bids also included royalty, high-ranking government officials and businessman.
Garcia is barred from entering Russia because of his role in prosecuting a Russian national on arms smuggling charges.
Blatter, at a press conference last week, insisted the 2022 World Cup would be held in Qatar.
FIFA’s executives are considering changing the dates of the tournament for the first time in its 83-year history because of concerns about high temperatures during the Qatari summer. The investigatory committee isn’t looking at the selection of the venues or the timing of the event, it said today.
A rescheduling of the tournament is being resisted by broadcasters including Fox, which holds the television rights in the U.S., and European leagues that are concerned about the effect on their schedules. Frank Lowy, the billionaire businessman who led Australia’s failed bid for the 2022 World Cup, said FIFA must compensate the bidders that lost out if the dates are changed.
Qatar is also under pressure about labor conditions following the deaths of migrant Nepali workers on projects there, including some related to the World Cup.
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