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FIFA Accused Of Misrepresenting Russia-Qatar Corruption Probe

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Russian President Vladimir Putin (right) and FIFA President Sepp Blatter take part in the official handover ceremony for the 2018 World Cup scheduled to take place in Russia, in Rio de Janeiro in July.

Russian President Vladimir Putin (right) and FIFA President Sepp Blatter take part in the official handover ceremony for the 2018 World Cup scheduled to take place in Russia, in Rio de Janeiro in July.

The investigator of corruption allegations surrounding the winning bids by Russia and Qatar to host the World Cup in 2018 and 2022 says his findings are being misrepresented by FIFA, soccer’s world governing body.

FIFA investigator Michael Garcia says a 42-page summary of his two-year probe, released on November 13 by FIFA ethics judge Joachim Eckert, contains numerous omissions and “erroneous representations of the facts and conclusions” he detailed in his full report.

Garcia's complete 430-page report of investigative work has been sealed by FIFA from public scrutiny.

Eckert claims Garcia’s probe cleared Russia and Qatar of buying the votes of FIFA executives and that “a degree of closure has been reached.”

He said any wrongdoing found by Garcia did not affect the integrity of the December 2010 votes by FIFA's executive committee.

Garcia said he will appeal FIFA’s decision to close the investigation.

British lawmakers called Eckert’s summary a “whitewash” and said FIFA must publish Garcia’s report in full if it expects anyone to believe their claims there was no cover-up.

Excerpts summarized by Eckert on November 13 noted the Russian committee that submitted the winning bid to host the 2018 World Cup tournament “made only a limited amount of documents available for review.”

But Eckert said the lack of documents provided by the Russians “was explained by the fact that the computers used at the time by the Russian bid committee had been leased and then returned to their owner after the bidding process.”

He said the owner of those computers has confirmed that the computers have since been destroyed.

Eckert also said the Russian bid committee “attempted to obtain access to the Gmail accounts used during the bidding process from Google USA.

However, he said, the Russia bid committee confirmed in a letter dated August 1, 2014, that Google USA had not responded.

Asked on November 13 if Russia had cooperated fully, the head of the Russian bid committee, Alexei Sorokin, said: "Yes, we did. We think we did our best."

Regarding Qatar’s successful bid to host the World Cup in 2022, Eckert’s summary said: “According to the report, the conduct of two individuals who acted as consultants or advisers to the Qatar 2022 bid team raised concerns."

He said the consultants and advisers were not members of Qatar’s bidding committee but acknowledged that Qatar's use of advisers reflected a "significant lack of transparency."

Eckert’s summary also said the investigation "identified certain questionable conduct” by Qatar’s committee.

Those included a $1.8 million payment by Qatar’s bidding committee to the January 2010 Confederation of African Football (CAF) congress in Angola under a “sponsorship agreement” that granted the Qatar 2022 committee “exclusive right to market its bid” during the event.

The summary noted that “several different improper payments were made” before the December 2, 2010, FIFA executive committee vote that awarded the tournament to Qatar.

But Eckert concluded: “The record does not support the conclusion that the purpose of these payments was to promote the Qatar 2020 FIFA World Cup bid."

Rather, his summary said, “the evidence strongly suggests” the payments were meant to influence votes in the June 2011 election for FIFA president.

Garcia also is now calling for key details of his investigation to be published.

That has provoked clashes with FIFA President Sepp Blatter, who has helped protect the privacy of his boardroom colleagues who have been implicated in seeking favors in return for their votes.

Garcia could be suspended from his FIFA post if he publicly reveals details of the case and removed from office when the 209 member associations meet at their congress in May 29, 2015.

On that same day, Blatter is expected to be elected to a fifth term as FIFA president.

With reporting by AP, Reuters, dpa, and BBC
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