FIFA ethics committee requests transparency in investigations

FIFA's ethics committee wants to lift secrecy rules that protect accused officials from being identified and keep case details private.


GENEVA – FIFA’s ethics committee wants to lift secrecy rules that protect accused officials from being identified and keep case details private.

Fighting back against rules imposed by FIFA’s scandal-hit executive committee in 2012, ethics prosecutor Cornel Borbely and judge Joachim Eckert said Thursday that more openness would even help curb offending.

”Greater transparency in investigations would help efforts to uncover and clear up fraud, as it would encourage potential informants to support the proceedings,” they said in a joint statement, promising to ask the Sepp Blatter-led executive committee to ease the rules. More transparency ”will have a preventative effect, as copycat culprits will also have to face exposure,” the statement said.

Strict secrecy meant a 7-year ban was announced last week for 2018-2022 World Cup bid inspector Harold Mayne-Nicholls with no detail of the Chilean official’s alleged offenses. It was the first formal announcement that a case even existed.

”The ethics committee will publicly justify the decisions it takes immediately,” the Borbely-Eckert statement said. When Eckert handed down an 8-year ban for bribery to Vernon Manilal Fernando of Sri Lanka in 2013, the brief ruling did not say where and when it happened, who received the money or the amounts involved. The sanction was later increased to a life ban.

FIFA Code of Ethics rules demand investigation and judging panel members be suspended if they discuss case detail in public. They also let President Sepp Blatter insist on blocking publication of former prosecutor Michael Garcia’s investigation report into the 2018 and 2022 bid contests.

Blatter has said FIFA accepted legal advice that publication is possible only when the appeal route of the final defendant is closed. Still, the ethics committee has never confirmed which current and former FIFA executive committee members face sanctions in that case.

FIFA vice president Angel Maria Villar of Spain and former executive panel members Franz Beckenbauer of Germany and Worawi Makudi of Thailand are under investigation, the Associated Press and other media have reported. Borbely and Eckert’s pledge Thursday to approach the executive committee is a belated victory for Garcia, who resigned last December in protest at Blatter’s leadership and the German judge’s handling of his report.

Last September, Garcia used a speech at a FIFA-hosted ethics conference to suggest that public trust would be increased if he could reveal who had been charged with what offenses. Blatter later filed a formal complaint to FIFA’s disciplinary committee which declined to open a case against the New York-based former federal prosecutor.

FIFA said Thursday it supported the suggestion from Borbely, a former Zurich canton (state) prosecutor, and Eckert. ”The request and proposals are in line with the ongoing (Code of Ethics) revision process started by FIFA and the Ethics Committee in 2013,” the governing body said. In ”important cases,” the FIFA ethics committee wants to publish details of open proceedings, and also ”confirm the existence of ongoing proceedings upon request” when doing so is in the public interest.

The ethics panel also wants to clarify decisions ”where there has been public misinformation.”