FIFA’s newly named independent ethics investigators will have powers to look at previous allegations of wrongdoing including the selection of World Cup hosts.
Soccer’s governing body today named former U.S. attorney Michael J. Garcia as head investigator for its ethics committee and German judge Hans-Joachim Eckert to lead the adjudicatory branch. The moves are part of a reform program that started with corruption claims linked to the selection of Russia and Qatar as hosts of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups and President Sepp Blatter’s re-election last year.
“We have to follow what they are going to find out whenever they are going to open the cases,” Blatter said at a press conference in Zurich. He was responding to a question about whether the new men will probe the 2010 decision to award the World Cup to Russia and Qatar, which came ahead of a field that included the U.S. and Australia.
FIFA’s 24-member executive branch chose Garcia and Eckert from a list provided to them by a body led by Swiss law professor Mark Pieth. Pieth said in a July 12 interview any new investigators should look at how the World Cup hosts were selected. Only 22 out of the eligible members voted after two were suspended for offering to sell their votes to undercover reporters posing as businessmen.
A Swiss court last week ordered the publication of a settlement that named former FIFA president Joao Havelange and his former son-in-law, Ricardo Teixeira, as the recipients of as much as $22 million from the soccer body’s collapsed marketing partner ISL. Blatter today said there wouldn’t be any limitations over how far back the investigators could look for corruption.
The payments to Teixeira and Havelange made between 1992 and 1997 were not illegal, Blatter said. Swiss law didn’t prosecute individuals who received bribes from companies, as the law at the time only made it illegal for public officials to receive kickbacks.
FIFA paid 2.5 million Swiss francs ($2.6 million) in compensation on the condition a criminal investigation into Teixeira and Havelange was stopped. Prosecutors accused the pair of “embezzlement, or alternatively disloyal management.” Neither has commented.
Blatter has faced calls to stand down from the presidency he’s held since 1998. He said his future was in the hands of soccer’s 209 member associations.
“If they don’t want me in FIFA any longer, the associations will say, ‘‘Blatter we don’t want you any longer,’” he said.