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Investigation launched into bidding for 2018 and 2022 World Cups

By Tom Peck

A criminal investigation is to be launched into the awarding of hosting rights for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.

In an unexpected development, Fifa asked Swiss officials to launch a criminal inquiry into the bidding process, which saw the tournaments given to Russia and Qatar.

The move, which follows days of criticism of Fifa for allegedly covering up its own evidence of corruption in the bidding, raises the prospect that some of football's most prominent current and former administrators could face criminal charges.

Announcing the referral to Switzerland's Office of the Attorney General, Fifa president Sepp Blatter said internal inquiries had discovered "grounds for suspicion that, in isolated cases, international transfers of assets with connections to Switzerland took place".

Fifa's own investigation into alleged corruption by US lawyer Michael Garcia did not have the power to compel people to give evidence. Individuals who could be interviewed by police include members of the 22-strong committee who voted in 2010 to award the two tournaments to Russia and Qatar, but have since left Fifa following corruption allegations.

The decision to award the 2022 World Cup to Qatar, a country with no football history, has been described as the most controversial in the sport's history.

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