KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTS: Phaedra Almajid and Bonita Mersiades, the two whistleblowers identified after the FIFA World Cup scandal inquiry, have registered a formal ethics complaint against judge Hans-Joachim Eckert.
Mersiades and Almajid, who worked for the Australian and Qatar bids respectively, were both dismissed part-way through the bid process. They have complained that a promise of confidentiality from ethics investigator Michael Garcia was betrayed by Eckert.
Hence Almajid, in her complaint, said she felt “betrayed and denigrated for being courageous enough to come forward with critical information.”
The two women have submitted her complaint to Garcia who is already at loggerheads with Eckert over what the United States lawyer claimed were “erroneous” statements of fact and conclusions in the German judge’s interim summary, published last week.
Garcia had spent two years delving into the murky events surrounding the awards of the World Cup to Russia in 2018 and to Qatar in 2022.
The summary included two sections in which Eckert referred to the evidence of bid whistleblowers, subsequently identified by the media as Mersiades and Almajid.
The complaint from Almajid said that she was promised confidentiality in return for providing Garcia with documents, data and recordings concerning the conduct of the Qatar bid.
She added: “My co-operation was based on your promise of confidentiality. You have said that, ‘in the course of any investigation, [you are] bound by confidentiality,’ and ‘also want to protect anyone who would wish to come to me in good faith.'”
The issue of confidentiality has been offered as the central reason for FIFA’s inability to publish the Garcia report in full. That was reiterated in a recent press conference by FIFA legal adviser Marco Villiger.
Almajid, while describing Eckert’s summation of her evidence as “a crude, cynical and fundamentally erroneous description of me” added that “it directly breached FIFA’s assurances of my confidentiality.”
Eckert did not name her directly but referred to her public statements three years ago which were easily checked and linked by the German and British media.
Twisting the knife further, Almajid added: “As if identifying me were not enough, Herr Eckert’s report falsely discredits me in order to support his indefensible conclusion that the December 2010 bidding was wholly acceptable.”
Hence her complaint to Garcia that Eckert’s report violated Article 16.1 of FIFA’s Code of Ethics.
This states: “Information of a confidential nature divulged to persons bound by this Code while performing their duties shall be treated as confidential or secret by them as an expression of loyalty, if the information is given with the understanding or communication of confidentiality and is consistent with the FIFA principles.”
Joint statement by Phaedra Almajid and Bonita Mersiades
On 13 November 2014, FIFA published a 42-page summary of Michael Garcia’s 430-page report into the 2018/22 World Cup bid process by Hans-Joachim Eckert, the head of the adjudicatory arm of FIFA’s ethics committee.
We were among the witnesses who had agreed to speak to Mr Garcia and provided him with information and lines of inquiry over a 21 and 18-month period respectively.
We have today written separately to Mr Garcia to ask him to investigate a breach of Article 16.1 of the FIFA Code of Ethics by FIFA and Judge Eckert arising from the summary report. Article 16.1 states:
‘… information of a confidential nature divulged to persons bound by this Code while performing their duties shall be treated as confidential or secret by them as an expression of loyalty, if the information is given with the understanding or communication of confidentiality and is consistent with the FIFA principles.’
The general terms of our separate letters to Mr Garcia are outlined below:
As we are no longer employed in football in a professional capacity, we were under no obligation to cooperate with Mr Garcia’s inquiry, but did so through a sense of natural justice and a desire to bring closure to a long running chapter in our lives.
Our cooperation was facilitated by Mr Garcia’s repeated promises – made privately to us and also in public – to ensure the confidentiality of his witnesses. He said the report would not be published; that only four people would see it; and that the identities of the people he spoke with – other than current serving football officials or employees – would remain confidential. This was a crucial element behind our decision to cooperate, as we are private citizens and no longer protected by the legal and PR functions of wealthy football federations.
These assurances of confidentiality were publicly reiterated by FIFA’s legal counsel, Marco Villiger, in September this year. http://www.worldsoccer.com/columnists/keir-radnedge/confidentiality-transparency-fifa#O2tZ1JbdTuf2udIz.99
The summary by Judge Eckert clearly breached all such assurances of confidentiality. Although not named in the report, we were clearly identifiable and within hours of its publication had been widely unmasked as the ‘whistleblowers’ in German, British and Australian media.
To compound this situation Judge Eckert used his summary report to question our credibility. This is particularly puzzling as the summary simultaneously uses the same information we provided to form significant parts of his inquiry in respect of the Australian and Qatar World Cup bids.
We note that within hours of the summary report’s publication Mr Garcia denounced it, alleging ‘numerous materially incomplete and erroneous representations of the facts and conclusions’ that are detailed in the full report. We note also that Mr Garcia is taking his case of misrepresentation to the FIFA appeals committee.
In addition to his own appeal process, we have requested Mr Garcia to investigate a breach of Article 16.1 by FIFA and Judge Eckert.