FIFA has filed a criminal complaint against unnamed individuals on Tuesday over the 2018 and 2022 World Cup bidding contests won by Russia and Qatar. FIFA said president Sepp Blatter asked Switzerland’s attorney general to investigate the behaviour of the unnamed people involved in the bid campaigns.
In an apparent move to avert criticism of FIFA, Blatter acted on a request by FIFA ethics judge Joachim Eckert, whose summary last week of an investigation by American prosecutor Michael Garcia was widely denounced as a “whitewash’’ of Russia, Qatar and FIFA officials. Eckert concluded that any corrupt acts in the 11-nation bidding process did not justify reviewing the December 2010 votes by FIFA’s executive committee.
On Tuesday, Eckert said in an interview released by FIFA that he submitted his advice of a criminal complaint “more or less at the same time’’ as his 42-page summary was published.
He said the complaint concerns “suspected unlawful activity in connection with Switzerland.’’ No details were given as to which financial or business laws might have been broken.
A FIFA statement noted that “in isolated cases, international transfers of assets with connections to Switzerland took place, which merit examination by the criminal prosecution authorities.’’
Eckert maintains “there is insufficient incriminating evidence’’ to question the FIFA board’s choice of Russia and Qatar in December 2010. Still, “there are indications of potential illegal or irregular conduct in certain areas,’’ he said.
The criminal complaint is the latest twist in a chaotic drama playing out since Thursday. Garcia has himself appealed to FIFA, challenging Eckert’s decision to close the case against Russia and Qatar, and stating that his team’s 430-page investigation reports were misrepresented by the German judge.
WC under cloud, but Doha bags marquee athletics event
Doha was chosen on Tuesday to host the 2019 World Athletics Championships as Qatar’s latest triumph thrust the Middle East nation, with its massive wealth and boundless ambition to be a sporting super-power, once more back into the spotlight. Less than a week after the controversy over Qatar’s selection to stage football’s World Cup in 2022 was reignited, the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) was not put off by potential criticism as it voted for the Qatari capital to stage another of global sport’s showpiece events. At its meeting in Monaco, the IAAF Council plumped for Doha ahead of two powerful, older school candidates, former Olympic hosts Barcelona and Eugene, the Nike-backed home of athletics in the US.
Doha’s victory, after losing to London in the 2017 bidding race, again underlined the ever-growing pulling power of Qatar’s petrodollar-fuelled masterplan to be a major, credible force in the sporting mainstream.