Thu, Nov 20, 2014 - Page 19 News List

FIFA files criminal complaint over World Cup bids

Reuters, ZURICH, Switzerland

Lights illuminate the FIFA logo at the headquarters of world soccer’s governing body in Zurich, Switzerland, on Oct. 29, 2007.

Photo: EPA

World soccer’s governing body on Tuesday lodged a criminal complaint in Switzerland against unidentified people over the bidding for the 2018 and 2022 FIFA World Cups, but stood by its conclusion that any wrongdoing was not enough to jeopardize the winning Russian and Qatari bids.

FIFA president Sepp Blatter said that, on the recommendation of FIFA ethics judge Hans-Joachim Eckert, it was “his duty” to lodge a complaint to the Swiss courts.

The move marks the first time FIFA has sought to involve law enforcement in connection with its 18-month investigation into the bids, which ended last week with an announcement that it found no reason to overturn the decisions to hold the 2018 Cup in Russia and the 2022 one in Qatar.

In a statement, FIFA said its investigation had determined that some individuals — it did not say who — may have broken unspecified laws in Switzerland, where the body is based.

“In particular, there seem to be grounds for suspicion that, in isolated cases, international transfers of assets with connections to Switzerland took place, which merit examination by the criminal prosecution authorities,” it said, giving no further details.

FIFA’s probe into the bidding process has loomed large over international soccer, especially in Europe, where officials have spoken publicly about quitting a global body that earns billions from broadcast and sponsorship rights to the world’s most popular sporting event.

The probe looked at losing and winning bids, as well as at the behavior of countless international soccer officials, so the list of those who could potentially have been named in its complaint to the Swiss authorities could span the globe.

FIFA’s announcement last week clearing Qatar and Russia of wrongdoing was undermined just hours later when Michael Garcia, the former US prosecutor that led FIFA’s investigation, disputed its summary of his findings.

A number of European officials have called on FIFA to publish Garcia’s full report, but the association on Tuesday defended its decision not to release it to the public.

Switzerland’s attorney general confirmed it has received the complaint and a copy of the report.

“The Office of the Attorney General will analyze the documents, presented on a large scale, to violations of criminal law and liability,” the prosecutor said.

Swiss prosecutors have powers that FIFA’s internal investigators lack: to subpoena witnesses, demand evidence and raid premises. However, they can only investigate violations of Swiss law, not the FIFA ethics rules governing the bids.

The bidding for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups drew complaints from the moment they were announced in 2010. Qatar’s bid in particular was criticized in Europe because of the extreme temperatures in the Gulf state during the summer, when the tournament is usually held.

Qatar and Russia deny wrongdoing and say campaigns to discredit their bids are motivated by rival countries bitter that they failed.

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