FIFA president Sepp Blatter confirmed today that the soccer governing body has appealed to the Office of the Attorney General in Berne, Switzerland for criminal prosecution of individuals named in the recent ethics report.
FIFA has no subpoena power, but is clearly hoping to get support from a criminal justice organization in an attempt to prosecute those connected with any wrongdoing in the bidding process for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.
The report, which has not yet been released in full, will be handed over to the Attorney General’s office.
According to the FIFA release, it is concerned over “the international transfer of assets with connections to Switzerland,” likely referring to money changing hands in Swiss bank accounts. At the heart of this could be disgraced former FIFA exec Jack Warner, who was at the center of FIFA’s criticism of the England bid for the 2018 World Cup, but to this point no names of individuals named in the complaint have been released by FIFA.
“If we had anything to hide we would hardly be taking this matter to the Office of the Attorney General,” Blatter said of criticism that the report was not handled properly, and accusations of a cover up since the report has not been released to the public.
Blatter acted upon the recommendation of FIFA ethics chairman Hans-Joachim Eckert, who is still looking to fully clear his name after being slammed by Michael Garcia earlier this month.
“I lodged the criminal complaint upon the recommendation of Judge Eckert,” Blatter confirmed. “I cannot, however,comment on any possible criminal offenses.”
Garcia, whom conducted the investigation, claimed that Eckert penned numerous factual inaccuracies during his writing of the report based on Garcia’s provided material. The two are reportedly meeting on Thursday to discuss their differences.
“I came across indications that pointed to suspected unlawful activity in connection with Switzerland,” Eckert said. “Not once did my statement involve a so-called ‘whitewashing’ of the award process with regard to the various allegations”
Finally, Blatter said that with this criminal complaint, he and Eckert agree that as far as they are concerned, the investigation into the two bids “is concluded.”
As the Times’ Matt Dickinson points out, the handing over of the report to a criminal justice organization could give FIFA an excuse not to publish the report in full, or at least delay its publishing, due to an ongoing investigation.