Michael Garcia’s 18-month long investigation into the bidding process for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups went much deeper than to just investigate the winners.
Too far, some would say.
That’s what Belgian executive committee member Michel D’Hooghe has discussed in an all-out assault against the allegations brought forth in his name.
Accused of vote-trading during the elections as well as receiving improper gifts from various bidding parties, D’Hooghe has called the investigation into his conduct “total bull**** and absolutely not true” and says he’s been treated “like a murderer” during the process.
“I have asked for a quick conclusion because I am under great pressure,” the 68-year-old told InsideWorldFootball.com. “I have been 42 years in football and 26 in the executive committee but this is the hardest period of my life. You are just considered like a murderer. I am simply a man who has worked for years and years to improve medical issues at FIFA. I’m not so much upset as very, very sad.”
D’Hooghe is one of the longest-serving members of the FIFA executive committee, and is the chairman of FIFA’s medical committee. He is one of three who remain from the voting party in 2010.
His name, along with that of four others being investigated, was publicly released, but he is furious with the breach of confidentiality during this process. I am surprised confidentiality was broken,” D’Hooghe said. “I, at least, have kept my side about confidentiality because I was asked to and that’s what I will do for the moment. I will defend myself in the correct way.”
Following the investigation, D’Hooghe says he has cooperated fully, and it should have led to better handling of the situation. “I immediately agreed to go [provide information] again and did so on November 19 and correctly answered all the points they wanted clearing up,” he said. “I thought at that point it was over. Now, I don’t know why, they have published the names of five people apparently under investigation and this is AFTER I went back to give them more information.”
This isn’t the first time FIFA has succumb to criticism from those who expected confidentiality during this investigation process. The published portion of the report also named a trio of whistleblowers whose evidence was a major asset to the report. Those involved immediately fired back saying their names never should have been revealed.
It was revealed back in 2011 that D’Hooghe received a painting during a visit to his hometown of Bruges, Belgium from Viacheslav Koloskov, a member of Russia’s successful 2018 bid party. This is part of his investigation. D’Hooghe has since confirmed he received the gift, but said Koloskov is a close family friend and the painting is of no value, and that it’s sitting in his attic because if he were to hang the “ugly” gift, “I think I would get a divorce.”
The Sunday Times submitted evidence that prompted D’Hooghe is under invesitgation for vote-trading with the Japanese 2022 bid, as Belgium was a joint-bidder for the 2018 award with the Netherlands. According to the submitted evidence, the England bid picked up intelligence of the vote-trading with Japanese former executive committee member Junji Ogura, with the two parties agreeing to vote for the other.
“The allegations hurt me,” D’Hooghe said in November. “I didn’t promise anything to anyone, I didn’t vote for Russia – I voted for my own country. Do you think after 23 years with a reputation for integrity that I would sell my vote for a stupid painting that has no value? You can come and play darts on it if you like.”