FIFA Investigator Garcia Says He’s Aware of Qatar Claims

Michael Garcia said he was aware of most of the allegations surrounding Qatar’s successful bid to stage soccer’s World Cup in 2022 before they were published in the U.K. press.

Former U.S. Attorney Garcia completed his six-month investigation into the bid process two days ago. The Sunday Times suggested he rejected its offer to access information used in stories that claim Qatar bribed officials to win the vote. Qatar denies the claims.

“The vast majority of that material has been available to us for some time, since well before the recent news reports,” Garcia told soccer governing body FIFA’s 209 member associations at today’s annual meeting.

About a third of the 22 members of FIFA’s executive board who voted in December 2010 for Qatar -- a desert state smaller than Connecticut, and without a soccer culture -- have been expelled or quit soccer amid allegations of wrongdoing.

Also today, FIFA rejected the introduction of term limits for executive board members even after its independent compliance head said they were necessary to prevent corruption. Sepp Blatter, 78, has said he’s changed his mind about stepping down when his fourth term ends next year.

‘Original Source’

Garcia said his investigators have gone to “what appears to be the original source” of the Sunday Times data and have “spoken to or attempted to speak to every member” of the 2010 FIFA board, while reviewing tens of thousands of documents.

“No one should assume what information we have or do not have,” said Garcia.

According to the Sunday Times, Mohamed Bin Hammam bribed soccer officials to induce them to support his country’s bid. The majority of officials named in the newspaper didn’t have a vote on the host. Bin Hammam was banned from soccer in 2012 for financial mismanagement while he was the head of the Asian Football Confederation. He denies wrongdoing.

Garcia will file a report next month to German judge Hans-Joachim Eckert, who will decide if there is a case. Eckert presides over the adjudicatory arm of FIFA’s ethics committee.

“What we cannot do and what we will not do is postpone our work indefinitely on the basis someone somewhere might publish something we’ve not seen yet,” Garcia said. “We will follow our processes.”

Garcia told delegates today that soccer regulations compel them to speak with his team or face sanctions. Franz Beckenbauer, who won the World Cup with Germany and who participated in the 2010 vote, has said he refused to speak with Garcia.

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