After nearly three years of hemming and hawing, FIFA finally released the full report on an investigation it conducted into allegations of corruption pertaining to the awarding of the 2018 and 2022 World Cup tournaments to Russia and Qatar, respectively.
The release of the 430-page document compiled by independent ethics investigator Michael Garcia came with its own drama, however, after FIFA learned the German newspaper Bild had been leaked a copy of the report and was planning to release key details from it on a rolling basis.
In a statement on Tuesday accompanying the release of the documents that are commonly referred to as the “Garcia Report,” FIFA cited the newspaper’s plan, while explaining why world soccer’s governing body didn’t release the report in 2014 when it was completed.
“[The report’s release] had been called for on numerous occasions by FIFA President Gianni Infantino in the past and also supported by the FIFA Council since its meeting in Mexico City in May 2016. Despite these regular requests, it is worth noting that the former chairpersons of the Ethics Committee, Cornel Borbély and Hans-Joachim Eckert, had always refused to publish it,” said FIFA, which awarded the 2018 and 2022 World Cups while disgraced former FIFA President Sepp Blatter still reigned.
FIFA went on to say that its Ethics Committee planned to discuss the publication of the report “next week,” however, “as the document has been illegally leaked to a German newspaper, the new [Ethics Committee] chairpersons have requested the immediate publication of the full report (including the reports on the Russian and U.S. bid teams, which were conducted by Mr. Borbély alone) in order to avoid the dissemination of any misleading information.”
The release of the full report comes three years after Borbely and Eckert, both of whom were eventually ousted from their roles on the Ethics Committee, withheld the report from public view and instead release a 42-page summary of the report that Garcia declared “incomplete and erroneous” after it cleared Russia and Qatar of anything so egregious that it would result in their being unable to host the World Cup. While it didn’t paint a very glittering picture of FIFA’s inner workings, it apparently didn’t go far enough to detail some of the unethical behavior that Garcia uncovered, causing Garcia to resign in protest.
Unlike the sanitized summary, which hinged on general descriptions, the full report details several instances of corruption within FIFA’s highest ranks, including members of its Executive Committee, some of whom tried to shut down the investigation.
Among the most vocal was Angel Maria Villar Llona, who, according to Garcia, “was not willing to discuss the facts and circumstances of the case.”
Garcia said he spent the majority of the interview with Villar Llona demanding to know which FIFA “staff member” called for the investigation, refusing to believe the explanation that the allegations were first brought by media reports.
“Well, you really have balls,” Villar Llona told Garcia, demanding later that Garcia drop the case “for your own good.” Villar Llona remains a senior vice president at FIFA.
The report also details a previously reported money wire of 2 million pounds (about $2.6 million) to the account of a FIFA executive’s 10-year-old daughter from Sandro Rossell, who was believed to be working on behalf of Qatar’s 2022 bid. According to ESPN FC, reports of the payment to the daughter of former FIFA official Ricardo Teixeira first surfaced in Brazilian media around 2014.
In Garcia’s report, Qatar 2022 consultant Andreas Bleicher admitted to having knowledge that “the payment occurred,” but insisted it was unrelated to the Middle Eastern country’s World Cup bid, and instead had to do with “selling a real estate property in Brazil.” Bleicher added that funds were wired to Teixeira’s daugther’s account because “some people do things for tax reasons.”
Despite the salaciousness of some of the investigation’s details, nothing in the report is so revelatory that would lead to either Russia or Qatar being stripped of the World Cup at this point. FIFA’s delay in publishing the full report may have been strategic, in that three years later, it appears the public’s initial uproar over the allegations has simmered down.
Garcia, meanwhile, has also moved on. After leaving his post at FIFA, the American lawyer became an appeals court judge in the state of New York. He was briefly considered to replace ousted FBI director James Comey by President Donald Trump before Trump nominated Christopher Wray.