Belfast Telegraph

Publishing Garcia report is illegal: Sepp Blatter

By Martyn Ziegler

FIFA president Sepp Blatter has insisted that the investigation into 2018 and 2022 World Cup bidding will not be reopened despite the world governing body lodging a criminal complaint with the Swiss attorney general over "suspected unlawful activity" of unnamed individuals connected with the bidding contests.

The report to the Swiss prosecutors follows a recommendation by Fifa's ethics judge Hans-Joachim Eckert as part of his findings into the Garcia investigation on World Cup bidding.

Blatter said, however, that the lodging of the criminal complaint does not affect Eckert's statement last week that the investigation into the bidding process for the next two World Cups is concluded.

Blatter said: "There is no change to judge Eckert's statement that the investigation into the bidding process for the 2018 and 2022 Fifa World Cups is concluded.

"The matter will now also be looked at by an independent, state body, which shows that Fifa is not opposed to transparency."

A Fifa statement said: "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 Cups investigated by Michael Garcia, chairman of the investigatory chamber of the FIFA Ethics Committee.

"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."

The identities of the individuals who have been reported to the attorney general have not been disclosed.

Eckert's findings, which were released last week, did name two people, both former Fifa ethics committee members, as having contravened rules regarding payments. They were Jack Warner from Trinidad & Tobago, who resigned in disgrace in 2011, and Mohamed Bin Hammam, the former Asian confederation president from Qatar who was banned for life by Fifa.

The Garcia report will be handed over to the attorney general's office by Eckert, but he and Blatter remain adamant that the report cannot be published.

That is against the wishes of Football Association chairman Greg Dyke, who on Monday, called for "urgent action" by Fifa members to ensure Garcia's report into World Cup bidding is published in full.

Asked about the publication of the report, Blatter said: "If Fifa were to publish the report, we would be violating our own association law as well as state law.

"The people who are demanding in the media and elsewhere that Fifa publish the report are obviously of the opinion that Fifa should, or must, ignore the law."

Fifa said that it could not disclose whether Warner and Bin Hammam were those who had been reported to the attorney general.

Eckert's findings had criticised the England 2018 bid for pandering to Warner's wishes, but there is no suggestion the England bid has been reported to the Swiss prosecutors.

Eckert, meanwhile, has rejected criticism that his findings were "a whitewash" - an accusation made by former England 2018 chief operating officer Simon Johnson and British MP Damian Collins -and stood by his decision to clear Russia and Qatar to host the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.

He said: "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.

"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."

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