A Former U.S. Attorney Looks for 'Bad Actors' in Soccer

, The Associated Press


Michael Garcia
Michael Garcia

ZURICH - Former Southern District U.S. Attorney Michael Garcia has been kept busier than he expected trying to clean up world soccer—and his workload will probably increase after a whistleblower hotline opens this month.

The Zurich-based Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) appointed Garcia in July as chairman of the "investigatory chamber" of the organization's ethics committee.

Garcia told The Associated Press in an interview that FIFA investigations take "more of my time than I originally anticipated" since his appointment.

"I'm a busy man. It's five months in and I think we are in a very good place," said Garcia, who completed his first case last month. FIFA President Sepp Blatter's former election rival, Mohamed bin Hammam, was banned for life over financial mismanagement at the Asian Football Confederation.

"Outside of FIFA, I'm happy with the fact that people more and more seem to be getting the sense that this is a place where at least you can raise something, you'll get a hearing, you'll be taken seriously," he said from a Zurich hotel after attending the FIFA player of the year ceremony.

After the hotline is launched, Garcia may need to call on more resources from Kirkland & Ellis, where he is a partner in New York.

"I am going to have access directly to that data and there has been training for my folks to access that," he said.

Garcia, who served as U.S. attorney from 2005 to 2008, pledged last July to study all allegations from any source. He has powers granted under a FIFA Code of Ethics that was strengthened as part of Blatter's promise to improve the governing body's tattered image.

The old ethics system—seemingly disregarded by some FIFA ruling board members—could not cope with waves of bribery and corruption allegations linked to the 2018 and 2022 World Cup hosting votes, then Blatter's election contest with bin Hammam.

FIFA's fiercest critics wanted Garcia, a former Interpol vice president and soccer outsider, to shake up FIFA's inner circle and scrutinize Qatar's successful 2022 bid.

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