Hun­dreds of cases af­fected by fir­ing of soc­cer pros­e­cu­tor

The Hamilton Spectator - - SPORTS - ROB HAR­RIS

MANAMA, BAHRAIN — Hun­dreds of pros­e­cu­tions of sus­pected wrong­do­ing by soc­cer of­fi­cials will be af­fected by pres­i­dent Gianni In­fantino fir­ing FIFA’s top judge and pros­e­cu­tor.

The ousted in­ves­ti­ga­tor, Cornel Borbely, said Wed­nes­day that the work­load — heav­ier than even most FIFA crit­ics imag­ined — of the ethics com­mit­tee will be im­peded by the fir­ing that In­fantino sprung on his rul­ing coun­cil a day ear­lier.

On Wed­nes­day, In­fantino de­clined to dis­cuss the rea­sons for not hand­ing new terms to Swiss pros­e­cu­tor Borbely and Ger­man judge Hans-Joachim Eck­ert.

The FIFA leader also in­sisted its image had not been dam­aged by the fall­out — de­spite wide­spread com­par­isons of him with U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, who also fired a top in­ves­ti­ga­tor on Tues­day.

“We are pos­i­tive,” said In­fantino, whose rep­u­ta­tion for ac­quir­ing and wield­ing ex­ec­u­tive power matches that of pre­de­ces­sor Sepp Blat­ter.

Amid mount­ing crit­i­cism of the In­fantino’s purge of the men who have banned soc­cer’s top of­fi­cials in re­cent years, only one mem­ber of his coun­cil broke rank to pub­licly ques­tion the de­ci­sion.

“I said in the meet­ing that we were sat­is­fied with the work of both peo­ple,” Ger­man fed­er­a­tion pres­i­dent Rein­hard Grindel said, ref­er­enc­ing Eck­ert and Borbely. “I asked be­cause the gen­eral sec­re­tary (Fatma Samoura) made a state­ment in the me­dia a few weeks ago that they will sup­port both. And so it is a de­ci­sion of the pres­i­dent that he makes the pro­posal ... you have to ask In­fantino why he made this pro­posal.”

Only a day be­fore Tues­day’s coun­cil meet­ing, Grindel said he asked Samoura’s of­fice “if there were any an­nounce­ments that Borbely and Eck­ert will be dis­placed and they said no, they had no in­for­ma­tion.”

Eck­ert and Borbely said they dis­cov­ered they were be­ing re­moved from head­ing the two FIFA ethics cham­bers on their phones as they ar­rived in Bahrain on Tues­day for the FIFA Congress.

“First, I was as­ton­ished; sec­ond, I was dis­ap­pointed be­cause I am try­ing to ask my­self, ‘Have I done some­thing wrong?’” Eck­ert said in an in­ter­view. “You think about your­self and I didn’t find any­thing. I re­ally don’t know be­cause no­body (from FIFA) speaks with me up to now.”

The de­part­ing ethics of­fi­cials said the process of bring­ing cor­rupt of­fi­cials to jus­tice will stall as new of­fi­cials have to learn how to nav­i­gate the global FIFA struc­tures. Borbely said his “re­moval was un­nec­es­sary and be­cause of that po­lit­i­cal,” and called it a “setback for the fight against cor­rup­tion.”

“We in­ves­ti­gated sev­eral hun­dred cases and sev­eral hun­dred are still pend­ing and on­go­ing at this mo­ment,” Borbely added at a joint news con­fer­ence with Eck­ert. “Imag­ine where FIFA would be to­day with­out an ethics com­mit­tee.”

Cur­rent in­ves­ti­ga­tions in­clude Rus­sian Deputy Prime Minister Vi­taly Mutko for links to cov­er­ing up dop­ing cases. A judg­ment in that case could re­move Mutko from head­ing the 2018 World Cup or­ga­niz­ing com­mit­tee, af­ter he was al­ready forced to cede his FIFA Coun­cil seat.

FIFA said that its rul­ing coun­cil pro­posed Greek judge Vas­sil­ios Sk­ouris and Colom­bian lawyer Maria Clau­dia Ro­jas for ap­proval by the congress of all soc­cer na­tions on Thurs­day. Borbely said there’s “no pe­riod of tran­si­tion” to the new ethics lead­er­ship for the on­go­ing cases.

“They do not have the ex­pe­ri­ence from Day 0,” Borbely said. “You have to de­velop this prac­tice, this know-how.”

DIEU NALIO CHERY, THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

FIFA pres­i­dent Gianni In­fantino was talk­ing Wed­nes­day about oust­ing top judge and pros­e­cu­tor Cornel Borbely.

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