FIFA Report Details Gaming of a Murky System

(AP) – After years of intrigue about allegedly corrupt World Cup bidding, FIFA published an investigation report Tuesday that showed how voters exploited the murky system yet allowed Russia and Qatar to host the 2018 and 2022 tournaments.

FIFA published investigator Michael Garcia’s 430-page dossier less than 24 hours after Germany’s biggest-selling daily Bild began reporting extracts.

The full report verified the broad conclusions of a summary of Garcia’s work published by FIFA in November 2014.

A Russia bid backed by Vladimir Putin gave limited cooperation to Garcia’s team which found no evidence of undue influence. Putin met six of 22 FIFA voters before the December 2010 elections.

Qatar’s ultimate victory over the United States tested FIFA’s bid rules to the limit. The bid team used a full range of lavishly-funded state and sports agencies, plus advisers who raised Garcia’s suspicions.

Garcia’s report was once a holy grail for FIFA critics who hoped it would be explosive and force a re-run of the World Cup hosting votes.

Many believed Russian and Qatari bids must have behaved badly to persuade a FIFA executive committee lineup in 2010 that has since been widely discredited.

“Bid teams operated in an environment where a number of (voters) did not hesitate to exploit a system that in certain respects did not bind them to the same rules applicable to bid teams,” Garcia wrote, noting that some senior FIFA officials “sought to obtain personal favors or benefits.”

Still, it was clear even before a globe-trotting 2013-14 probe by Garcia’s team that they would he hampered by limited powers to gather evidence.

The full report detailed how: FIFA voters refused to be interviewed; bid teams such as Russia and Spain were evasive; potential key witnesses could not be tracked down.

Garcia’s work also has been overtaken since he delivered it to FIFA’s then ethics judge in September 2014.

The 42-page summary written by German judge Hans Joachim Eckert was published two months later and disputed by Garcia. Their public falling out prompted FIFA to pass the dossier and supporting evidence to Switzerland’s attorney general for review.

The true significance of Garcia might only be seen once Swiss authorities have completed their work. It started with suspected money laundering linked to the World Cup bids and extended to other areas of FIFA business.

Around 25 investigations have been launched, the Swiss federal prosecution office said this month, using more than 170 suspect bank transactions as evidence.

Swiss investigators have shared evidence in recent years with the FBI and U.S. Department of Justice, which has indicted or taken guilty pleas from more than 40 football and marketing officials.

Russia and Qatar have repeatedly denied wrongdoing since 2010, and could claim victory Tuesday. Qatari officials declined to comment.

Neither host nation can be sure exactly in which direction prosecutors in Brooklyn and Bern will head next.

FIFA forced publication of the Garcia Report on a rest day at the Confederations Cup — the rehearsal tournament in Russia to test its readiness for the 2018 World Cup.

“For the sake of transparency, FIFA welcomes the news that this report has now been finally published,” world football’s governing body said in a statement.

Garcia’s team found “no evidence” Russia’s bid team or Vladimir Putin, then prime minister and now president, unduly influenced FIFA voters.

In helping the United States bid, eventually beaten by Qatar in a 14-8 vote in Zurich, then-President Barack Obama hosted a total of three FIFA voters at the White House in two separate visits.

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