Garcia report said to be of little use

NEW YORK - The Swiss authorities investigating whether there was corruption in the awarding of World Cup hosting rights are finding that a report produced by lawyer Michael Garcia at the end of an internal Fifa inquiry is of little value to their probe, according to a source close to investigations into football's governing body.

Swiss officials question whether the report, which has not been made public, has significant evidential value, the source told Reuters on the condition of anonymity.

That is because Garcia, an American who was hired by Fifa, had no subpoena power, did not take sworn testimony and was operating under Fifa's own ethical rules, which had little enforcement power behind them.

Switzerland's Attorney-General Michael Lauber said last week that the US Federal Bureau of Investigation, which has been conducting its own wide-ranging probe into corruption in Fifa and its affiliates, has not asked him or his office for a copy of the Garcia report, and he has not provided the US authorities with one.

An American law enforcement official told Reuters earlier this month that the FBI did not have a copy of the report.

Garcia, a former top US government prosecutor, was brought in by Fifa in 2012 to run its ethics committee's investigations, including examining allegations of corruption.

The report, submitted to Fifa last September, has been a mysterious part of the growing scandal because football's governing body not only declined to publish it but instead released a summary by Fifa ethics judge Hans-Joachim Eckert that prompted Garcia to quit in protest in December.

Eckert concluded that any impairment of integrity in the bidding process was only of "very limited scope" and it was far from reaching any threshold that would require reopening the bidding process for the two World Cups in Russia in 2018 and Qatar in 2022.

Garcia said at the time that the summary contained misrepresentations and that he had lost confidence in the independence of Eckert. He also criticised the "lack of leadership" in Fifa and said he could not change the organisation's culture.

Eckert's summary stresses that Garcia's probe had major limitations because of the lack of subpoena powers.

For example, several former members of Fifa's 24-strong executive committee, which made the World Cup decisions, either declined or did not respond to requests for interviews or to provide answers to questions.

In addition, the Russian bid committee only made a limited number of documents available because the computers it had used were leased, then returned to their owner and destroyed after the award, the summary said.

The Russian part of the investigation was handled by Garcia's deputy, Cornel Borbely of Switzerland, because Moscow had banned the American from entering the country in retaliation for US sanctions imposed in response to Russia's annexation of Crimea.

The competition to host a World Cup - which is held every four years and is the world's most widely viewed sporting event - is fierce as it carries enormous prestige and potential economic benefits.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 25, 2015, with the headline 'Garcia report said to be of little use'. Print Edition | Subscribe