KEIR RADNEDGE in SAO PAULO: Independent ethics investigator Michael Garcia has promised a report into the 2018/2022 World Cup bid scandal which will be a “comprehensive and fair to all parties.”
The New York-based attorney was addressing FIFA Congress for the time since his appointment in the summer of 2012 as a key feature of the reform process following the votes-for-cash scandal.
He also indicated that he had already seen most of the material which provided the basis for the corruption allegations raised by The Sunday Times against the disgraced former Asian confederation president Mohamed Bin Hammam.
At a Congress marked by addresses which ranged from the rambling to the verbose to the self-righteous, Garcia delivered a clear and concise description of his role and his modus operandi without ever conceding anything about specificities.
He acknowledged the support of audit chairman Domenico Scala and reform ‘guide’ Theo Zwanziger and hailed the reforms as a cause for optimism because they were not ” targeted at any one individual but aimed at structural changes to promote just outcomes; they are aimed at establishing a process which is rigorous but fair.”
The one area in which Garcia revealed a hard edge was in his assertion that all football officials had a duty to co-operate with the investigations and risked serious penalties for failing to fulfil this obligation.
Garcia did not refer directly to Franz Beckenbauer but his remarks suggested that Bayern Munish’s honorary president may not escape unscathed for refusing to discuss with Garcia his memories of the Qatar vote when he was a member of the FIFA exco.
Garcia wanted to dispel suggestions about his interview logistics.
He said: “We do not swoop in unannounced for surprise interviews.” Interviews were arranged at a mutually convenient time and venue, interpreters were provided where appropriate and any interviewee was entitled to be accompanied by a legal adviser.
After that, Garcia said, “what is required in return is full co-operation in establishing the facts including complete and truthful answers to questions.”
Tips of wrongdoing came from a variety of sources across the game and from the public concerning “bribery and corruption, conflicts of interest, matchfixing, harassing and false statement in integrity checks.”
The most high-profile case before Garcia at the moment is his investigation of the awards of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Russia and Qatar respectively.
Garcia said|: “Over the past six months I and the investigatory deputy chairman Cornel Borbely have interviewed representatives of every bid team involved in that process and all FIFA executive committee members who were voting.
“We have also spoken – or attempted to speak – to every other member of the committee at the time regardless of whether they remain active football officials . . . We have reviewed 10s of thousands of relevant documents and others from sources who provided material voluntarily.”
Garcia then, without naming The Sunday Times, referred specifically to evidential documentation.
He said: “There have been assertions about what material Mr Borbel and I will or will not have seen.
“First, no-one should assume what information we have or do not have. We have reviewed the recent reports and the documengtation on which they were based. The vast majority has been available to us for some time, since well before the recent wave of news reports.
“We have also gone to what we think is the original source of that data and will review that data or anything else relevant prior to issuing the final report.”
Garcia has set mid-July for delivering his report to ethics judge Hans-Joachim Eckert. However he added the caveat that, while he did not wish his inquiry to drag on, if any further relevant information emerged this would be properly considered.