Photographer: Alessandro Della Bella/Bloomberg

FIFA’s Ethics Investigator Receives $2.2 Million in Fees

  • Swiss lawyer Cornel Borbely’s case load increased since crisis
  • Several soccer officials banned following U.S. investigation

The independent investigator probing scandals at FIFA billed soccer’s governing body for 2.2 million Swiss francs ($2.2 million) in hourly fees for 2014 and 2015, according to two people familiar with the matter.

FIFA has never disclosed how much it pays Swiss lawyer Cornel Borbely, who has headed the investigatory chamber of its ethics committee since 2014. Borbely assumed a leadership role after serving as an aide to former U.S. Attorney Michael Garcia, who quit FIFA two years ago, saying it inaccurately summarized his report into the bidding process for the 2018 and 2022 World Cup tournaments.

Since the U.S. Department of Justice unsealed an indictment in May 2015 accusing dozens of soccer officials of corruption, several FIFA executives have been investigated and sanctioned by Borbely’s committee. He recused himself from the case that led FIFA to ban former President Sepp Blatter last year because both men are Swiss and the organization’s rules prohibit officials from investigating fellow citizens.

“The year 2015 was most likely the busiest for the ethics committee since its establishment,” FIFA said in a statement, declining to provide details of the exact amounts billed. “The costs of the judicial bodies will be publicly made available” when the 2016 financial report is published next year. Borbely billed FIFA 1.2 million Swiss francs for 2015 and about 1 million Swiss francs in 2014, according to the people familiar with FIFA’s finances.

The amount Borbely billed in 2015 is close to the 1.3 million Swiss francs that its highest administrator, Secretary-General Fatma Samoura, receives in salary.

Borbely’s FIFA compensation this year is likely to be similar to the amount he billed in 2015, according a person familiar with his caseload. His spokesman declined to comment.

Rule Change

A rule change promoted by new President Gianni Infantino at FIFA’s annual meeting in May has led to scrutiny of the independence of its judicial bodies, including Borbely’s ethics group. The ruling allows FIFA’s executive leadership to hire and fire members of the oversight groups, something that had been restricted in the past to a vote of its entire 211-nation congress.

That led to the resignation of audit and control head Domenico Scala, who said he could no longer be considered independent. Mark Pieth, an international governance expert who advised FIFA to adopt an independent ethics committee in 2012, said the statute change puts Borbely and ethics judge Hans-Joachim Eckert under pressure.

“I had hoped we would have done something good by implementing this independent ethics committee -- now we see how it is being dismantled piece by piece,” Pieth said.

Within months of assuming office in February 2016, Infantino found himself under an ethics investigation of his expenses. Infantino was cleared following an inquiry that involved more than 20 witness interviews. The FIFA nationality rule meant Borbely was also excused from this process.

Infantino has said the rule change was necessary to ensure officials could be replaced between FIFA’s yearly congresses. Borbely, who hasn’t publicly commented on the matter, isn’t supportive of the rule change and would quit should FIFA’s leadership interfere with inquiries, a person familiar with his thinking said.

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