Updated: FIFA ethics chief resigns after 2022 Qatar report appeal rejected
Updated on Dec. 18 to reflect Garcia’s resignation
FIFA’s chief ethics investigator Michael Garcia has resigned from the world’s football governing body after an appeal he made with regards to a misrepresented World Cup corruption report was rejected.
Last month, ethics judge Hans Joachim Eckert issued a summary of Garcia’s report 430-page report corruption allegations around the 2018 and 2022 World Cup bids.
Eckert said there was no evidence of wrongdoing by winning hosts Qatar or Russia, and that FIFA would be closing its probe.
Hours later, Garcia lambasted the decision, describing Eckert’s summary as containing “numerous materially incomplete and erroneous representations of the facts and conclusions detailed in the Investigatory Chamber’s report.”
However, yesterday FIFA rejected the appeal, saying it was “not admissible” as Eckert’s summary was an opinion, not a decision.
In response, Garcia issued a statement yesterday saying:
“While the November 13, 2014, Eckert decision made me lose confidence in the independence of the Adjudicatory Chamber, it is the lack of leadership on these issues within FIFA that leads me to conclude that my role in this process is at an end.
Accordingly, effective today, December 17, 2014, I am resigning as independent Chairman of the Investigatory Chamber of the FIFA Ethics Committee.”
For his part, FIFA President Sepp Blatter expressed shock at the departure. A new interim chief is expected to be appointed in the coming weeks.
Garcia’s resignation comes just days before FIFA’s executive committee is due to meet in Marrakech to vote on whether to make changes to the organization’s ethics code to allow an edited version of Garcia’s full report to be released.
Amid calls for full disclosure, FIFA has said that its Ethics Code prevents the entire report from being made publicly available, which has raised many questions about the transparency of the organization.
Article 36 of the code states that all “facts of the case, contents of the investigations and deliberations and decisions” should remain confidential.
FIFA added there is no obligation for the details of the report to be publicly revealed: “Only the final decisions already notified to the addressees may be made public.”
Additionally, under article 78 of the code, there is no obligation for the ethics committee to reveal the grounds for any decision it has made, unless one of the parties requests it.
At the same time that FIFA rejected Garcia’s appeal, it also threw out complaints by two whistleblowers that Eckert’s summary had effectively “outed” them.
Phaedra Almajid, who worked for the Qatar 2022 bid team before losing her job in 2010, and Bonita Mersiades, who worked for Australia’s 2022 bid, said that Eckert’s summary released details that effectively identified them, although it did not name them directly.
Describing it as a “breach of confidentiality,” Almajid released a statement in which she said the disciplinary committee’s ruling was “a transparent avoidance of a clear violation of its own rules,” The Daily Mail reported.
She said she cooperated with Garcia’s investigation on a promise of mutual confidentiality – that she would not publicly reveal any information, and that in turn her identity would be protected. This was broken by Eckert’s summary, she said.
“I kept my promise. Eckert breached that confidentiality. I did not. The Disciplinary Committee’s avoidance of this undisputable violation is emblematic of its culture of self-protection,” Almajid added.
FIFA’s disciplinary committee said that there were no grounds for a case, as no names had been released and any information disclosed was of a “general nature.”
“The chairman reviewed all provided material and stressed that since the participants in the investigation had gone public with their own media activities long before the publication of the statement of the chairman of the adjudicatory chamber Judge Eckert, the breach of confidentiality claim had no substance,” FIFA said in a statement.
However, Almajid maintained that the public statements she had made had been before she had signed up to a confidentiality agreement with Garcia.