Removing the former U.S. Attorney for New York who is investigating potential corruption in FIFA’s World Cup location voting would have “created a terrible picture,” said Jerome Valcke, the second most-senior executive at the world soccer governing body.
Michael Garcia is leading the inquiry into possible violations of FIFA’s code of ethics during the 2010 vote that ended with Russia being awarded the right to host the World Cup in 2018 and Qatar the 2022 edition. Organizers from both countries deny wrongdoing.
Several members of FIFA’s executive board that made the decision are no longer with the organization, and Garcia has started speaking with the remaining officials. He’s expected to report his findings later this year.
“I agree with you it will be a terrible picture and terrible thing to remove Michael Garcia,” FIFA General Secretary Valcke said at a news conference in Rio de Janeiro today. “Michael Garcia is doing the job which is defined under the ethics code.”
The move to remove Garcia was made on the sidelines of a FIFA board meeting last week, according to media including the Inside World Football website and Reuters.
“There was a bit of informal chat about the possibility that some people wanted to see Garcia removed from the inquiry,” FIFA Vice President Jim Boyce said. “If this had been proposed at the executive committee meeting, or I thought for one moment Garcia would be removed in any fashion from carrying out his full investigation, I and others would be aghast and would have had to consider our positions because things at FIFA have been improving greatly.”
Garcia was hired in 2012 as part of a reform program instigated after allegations of impropriety surrounding the World Cup vote and the FIFA presidential election a year later. Two FIFA executive members were suspended from balloting after being caught on camera discussing the possibility of selling their votes. In 2011 the only challenger to President Sepp Blatter, Qatari Mohamed Bin Hammam, was suspended after being found to have offered envelopes stuffed with $40,000 to voters in the Caribbean.
“I agree and support that Michael Garcia has been appointed by the FIFA Congress for four years,” Valcke said. “He has to do his mandate.”
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