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FIFA launches criminal complaint
Football's world governing body lodges complaint in Switzerland
Swiss Attorney General to examine matter
Investigation against "individual persons"
The bidding process for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups has taken a new twist as football’s world governing body FIFA lodged a criminal complaint with the Swiss judiciary Tuesday.
The complaint relates to the “international transfers of assets with connections to Switzerland, which merit examination by the criminal prosecution authorities.”
The FIFA statement added: “The subject of the criminal complaint is the possible misconduct of individual persons in connection with the awarding of the hosting rights of the 2018 and 2022 World Cup.”
FIFA lodged the complaint with the Attorney General of Switzerland in Berne on the recommendation of German judge Hans-Joachim Eckert – FIFA’s independent ethics adjudicator.
“I lodged the criminal complaint upon the recommendation of Judge Eckert,” FIFA president Sepp Blatter said.
“I cannot, however, comment on any possible criminal offenses. I am not a lawyer.
“I also was not the addressee of the investigatory report, which I have never seen. However, given Judge Eckert’s recommendation, it was my duty – as the President of FIFA – to lodge the complaint.”
Eckert’s recommendation was based on the evidence compiled by Michael Garcia – chairman of the investigatory chamber of the FIFA Ethics Committee – who has been examining the awarding of the hosting rights of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.
However Blatter insisted there was no change to Eckert’s statement “that the investigation into the bidding process for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups is concluded.”
Eckert, who is set to meet with Garcia on Thursday to discuss the report, says he came across “indications that pointed to suspected unlawful activity in connection with Switzerland.”
He told FIFA’s website: “In the circumstances, I saw it as my duty to bring this to the FIFA President’s attention and to recommend to him that the Swiss criminal prosecution authorities be informed.”
Eckert has been heavily criticized since publishing his 42-page summary into Garcia’s 18-month investigation last Friday.
The German told reporters last week that he had been surprised by the strength of bad feeling surrounding his summary.
“I would like to point out that not once did my statement involve a so-called “whitewashing” of the award process with regard to the various allegations and assumptions made, contrary to what has been claimed in some quarters,” he said.
“My statement was based on the Garcia report – I can only work with the material contained in it, and in my view, there was insufficient clear evidence of illegal or irregular conduct that would call into question the integrity of the award process as a whole.
“However, in certain places, the report does indicate that further clarification is needed of certain circumstances. Much of this clarification work can be carried out by the FIFA Ethics Committee itself, while the remainder is the responsibility of the relevant national investigatory authorities.”
With Garcia and Eckert set to discuss their differences over the summary on Thursday, Kevin Carpenter, who specializes in sports law for Kevin Hill Dickinson LLP, raised questions over the timing of the announcement.
“It’s interesting that Garcia said his report had been misrepresented, yet Eckert decides to take evidence to the Swiss judiciary now,” he told CNN.
“Why lodge the criminal complaint given they are meeting later this week?”
Carpenter also believes that Garcia, who has appealed to FIFA’s appeal committee over the findings in Eckert’s summary, could take his complaints further.
“Michael Garcia has referred the matter to the appeals committee, but if his complaint is rejected he could then go to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, which is extremely thorough and can look at all the evidence.
“CAS’ decision and reasoning would be made public. Names would have to be redacted but it would be a way for the bulk of his report – the sections he believes to be most important coming into the public domain.”
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