FIFA prosecutor wants World Cup report published

The ruling board chaired by FIFA President Sepp Blatter can grant the American lawyer’s wish at a two-day meeting starting Thursday

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In a move that exposed tensions in the FIFA ethics team investigating 2018 and 2022 World Cup bidding corruption, prosecutor Michael Garcia intensified his fight against secrecy rules which are keeping his reports sealed.

Garcia issued a statement Wednesday calling for FIFA’s executive committee to allow “appropriate publication” from the 430 pages of evidence reports submitted by his investigative team.

The ruling board chaired by FIFA President Sepp Blatter can grant the American lawyer’s wish at a two-day meeting starting Thursday.

Still, the timing of Garcia’s request seemed a direct response to a statement issued hours earlier by FIFA on behalf of ethics judge Joachim Eckert.

In it, Eckert publicly handed full responsibility to Garcia for opening cases against FIFA officials under investigation for their conduct in the bid contests won by Russia and Qatar.

“Given the limited role ... Eckert envisions for the Adjudicatory Chamber, I believe it is now necessary for the FIFA Executive Committee to authorize the appropriate publication of the Report on the Inquiry into the 2018/2022 FIFA World Cup Bidding Process,” Garcia wrote.

The back-and-forth reveals how a corruption probe which could define FIFA’s scandal-hit image and efforts to reform has intensified this month.

On Sept. 5, Garcia sent his first-draft reports to Eckert, which both insist have been seen only by each other and their deputies, but no one at FIFA.

Last Friday, both appeared at a FIFA-hosted ethics conference and gave different views of the FIFA Code of Ethics confidentiality rules which bind their work.

Garcia said it was a “disservice” to football fans skeptical of FIFA that they might never be told which senior FIFA officials had been charged, and with which offenses.

Eckert was content to abide by rules which would limit public disclosure to his judgments, expected around April next year.

The German judge also suggested he would not give guidance on whether Russia and Qatar should retain hosting rights. Decisions on possible re-votes must begin with the FIFA board, he said.

Blatter’s ruling panel appears to have authority over interpreting the code of ethics which it approved on July 17, 2012 - the same day it appointed Garcia and Eckert.

It is unclear from Garcia’s statement Wednesday if he wants immediate release of the initial reports, or a commitment to publish key case details later in the process.

Last Friday, Eckert said the current documents were “a summary of what (Garcia) has found out ... not of the legal quality of the final report.”

Garcia is supported by FIFA board members who joined since the December 2010 contests, including Sunil Gulati who was a leader of the United States bid which lost 14-8 to Qatar in a final round of voting.

“The commitment to release is the key,” Gulati said of the two-day board session in Zurich. “We will see if we have support for anything.”

With FIFA’s reputation at stake, other reform-minded supporters include vice presidents Jeffrey Webb of the Cayman Islands, Prince Ali bin Al-Hussein of Jordan and Jim Boyce of Northern Ireland.

“Publication would be consistent with statements made by a number of Executive Committee members, with the view recently expressed by Independent Governance Committee chair Mark Pieth, and with the goals of the reform process,” Garcia said Wednesday.

A possible precedent for Garcia is offered by the CONCACAF regional body, represented at FIFA by Webb and Gulati.

In April 2013, it published a 113-page report plus evidence files in which an investigation panel detailed alleged financial mismanagement by former CONCACAF president Jack Warner and American secretary general Chuck Blazer.