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FIFA publishes controversial World Cup investigation

Soccer

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

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

In a statement, world football’s governing body said the new bosses of its independent ethics committee, chief investigator Maria Claudia Rojas and lead judge Vassilios Skouris, had taken the decision.

“For the sake of transparency, FIFA welcomes the news that this report has now been finally published,” the statement read.

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.

“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 FIFA officials “sought to obtain personal favors or benefits.”

Some of those same FIFA officials have since been indicted by the US Department of Justice in a widespread racketeering case that is ongoing.

Garcia’s 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.

Russia has repeatedly denied wrongdoing since 2010, though the report confirmed that leased computers used by Russia’s bid campaign were later destroyed.

Qatari organisers of the 2022 tournament have also consistently denied wrongdoing. They declined to comment overnight, Australian time.

In helping the United States’ bid, then-President Barack Obama hosted a total of three FIFA voters at the White House in two separate visits. Former President Bill Clinton was lobbying voters in Zurich until hours before they gave Qatar a 14-8 win.

“Leaders of most, if not all, 2018 and 2022 bid nations spoke directly with FIFA Executive Committee members,” Garcia noted.

The then-Emir of Qatar was closely tied to his gas-rich nation’s bid before he lifted the World Cup trophy in Zurich on voting day.

“There was one specific incident concerning ‘government involvement’ with the Qatar bid that did raise concerns,” Garcia wrote of the Emir hosting South America’s FIFA voters who flew by private jet to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

All three voters have since been identified in a US justice department indictment for taking bribes from broadcast deals.

-AP

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