FIFA picks US attorney as corruption prosecutor
FIFA handed former United States attorney Michael J. Garcia the
freedom to investigate any allegations of corruption in world
football by appointing him Tuesday as its first independent lead
Garcia has the authority to order fresh probes into old cases,
including claims about how FIFA executive committee members awarded
the hosting rights for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.
His appointment by that same ruling board as chairman of the
prosecution unit in a revamped FIFA ethics court is seen as a
crucial step in FIFA President Sepp Blatter’s promised
”The decisions of this (ethics) committee will be accepted.
There is no doubt,” Blatter said at a news conference. ”We have
to follow what they are going to find out, whenever they are going
to open cases. Now let them work.”
FIFA also selected German judge Joachim Eckert to chair the
judging chamber of its revamped, two-chamber ethics court.
Garcia and Eckert can start work now but their appointments will
be formally ratified at the next FIFA Congress, scheduled for May
2013 in Mauritius.
Garcia brings a stellar reputation to football’s embattled world
governing body. He helped prosecute and convict terrorists who
bombed the World Trade Center in 1993 while Assistant U.S. Attorney
for the Southern District of New York, and has been suggested as a
potential Director of the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation.
One of his first tasks will be to inspect a Swiss court document
on a World Cup kickbacks scandal to evaluate the behavior of
Blatter and other senior FIFA officials in the affair. Former FIFA
president Joao Havelange and former 2014 World Cup organizing head
Ricardo Teixeira were finally identified last week for taking
millions of dollars in payments from now-defunct marketing agency
”He (Garcia) will have not only to write, but the duty to have
this case analyzed on ethic, moral matters and then to report back
to the executive committee,” Blatter said.
Garcia and Eckert are regarded as key independent figures from
outside the so-called ”football family” who can help restore
FIFA’s credibility after bribery and vote-buying scandals, plus the
long-running ISL agency scandal which has tainted much of Blatter’s
FIFA agreed that no statute of limitations on bribery and
corruption claims should impede Garcia’s work, Blatter said.
Blatter’s ruling board agreed to modernize the ethics court to
prosecute cases more effectively after a panel of anti-corruption
experts advising FIFA said previous cases were ”insufficiently
The 13-member panel, led by Swiss law professor Mark Pieth,
wants Garcia to examine claims surrounding how Russia and Qatar
were awarded World Cup hosting rights in a December 2010 poll of
FIFA’s executive committee.
Several senior FIFA officials were reported to have received
payments or sought unethical favors from bidders, and Blatter has
acknowledged that some breached bidding rules by joining a pact to
back Qatar and the failed Spain-Portugal bid.
Garcia and Eckert had to fulfill a FIFA statute that neither
they, nor their families, had a paid connection to football in the
past four years.
They will receive the ”normal compensation and payments” –
widely reported as $500 daily expenses – for FIFA committee
positions, Blatter said.
Garcia was linked to an expected vacancy to lead the FBI last
year, before President Barack Obama extended the term of 10-year
incumbent Robert Mueller.
During the administration of President George W. Bush, Garcia
headed the 20,000-employee Immigrations and Customs Enforcement
agency in the Department of Homeland Security.
Eckert, who was a presiding state court judge in Munich, is a
specialist in high-profile bribery cases, including one which
exposed billion-dollar payments made by German telecommunications
Pieth’s group suggested four candidates for each of the
positions decided on Tuesday, including Eckert. FIFA looked
elsewhere for the nomination of Garcia, who has also served on the
board of international police agency Interpol.
FIFA declined to appoint war crimes prosecutor Luis
Moreno-Ocampo of Argentina, who was widely reported to be the
advisory panel’s preferred choice.
Blatter was repeatedly asked if he would follow calls from some
German football leaders to resign over the ISL scandal, and his
suggestion last week of suspicions surrounding how Germany won the
hosting rights for the 2006 World Cup.
”This can only be decided by the Congress,” said the
76-year-old Swiss, referring to the 209 football nations who elect
him. ”If they don’t want me any longer, I will say, `OK, I have
done my job and I will leave.”’