For more than three years the decision to award the hosting rights for the Fifa World Cup finals in 2018 and 2022, to Russia and Qatar has been surrounded by controversy. Allegations have been made of millions of dollars of improper payments to Fifa officials who were involved in the process of voting for the winning bids. We are no closer today to knowing whether or not these allegations are true or false. Fifa has investigated itself and not surprisingly found itself to be not guilty.
The Ethics Committee report, of which they have only published a summary of today, is an attempt to whitewash over the allegations of bribery and corruption that were made. Fifa's claim that the publication of the report summary finally draws a line under this whole process can have no credibility at all. Fifa also seems to believe that the investigation of these allegations is simply a private matter for them and the football family. They are wrong again in this regard. The American FBI has been investigating the Fifa World Cup bidding process for two years. I have also asked the UK Serious Fraud Office to use their powers to look into this matter. Fifa may soon realise that these matters are also a question of illegality that is of interest to international law enforcement agencies.
Fifa promised there would be an investigation into the allegations of corruption in the World Cup bidding process leading to action against any guilty parties; and the result is this report commissioned by their ethics committee, and led by the American lawyer Michael Garcia. The Garcia investigation and report has been very narrow in its remit and powers. I do not question the integrity of the people involved in the investigation; but we have to admit that they have been very limited in their ability to request information relevant to the allegations that have been made. They have not had the legal powers to demand to see documents and bank records. They have had to rely on the information that was freely given to them by the bidding nations about their work.
In the case of the Russian bid, where all of the laptop computers and email records have been destroyed, this has severely limited their investigation. Michael Garcia was not even allowed to visit Russia during the investigation. The Garcia team have also been limited to interviewing football officials.
In the case of the Qatar bid, they identified the role played by two consultants which gave them cause for concern. However, as they held no formal position within football, these consultants could not be compelled to give evidence to the inquiry.
There has been considerable interest into whether England and Australia were guilty in wrongdoing in their bids. These charges have been made in part because their football associations have fully complied with requests for evidence from the inquiry team; Fifa simply knows more about these bids than those of other nations. However, these points of concern are small when set against the multi million dollar bribery allegations made against Fifa officials which remain unanswered.