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World governing body faces further embarrassment after internal plot to sabotage investigation into corruption is revealed
By Ben Rumsby
In the week The Telegraph revealed the first concrete evidence of payments made between two of the governing body’s vice-presidents following the 2010 vote, a number of senior power-brokers openly discussed overthrowing its chief investigator and scrapping its independent ethics committee.
The plot was foiled last week before it could be debated by Fifa’s executive committee, some members of which would have considered resigning had the investigation, led by New York lawyer Michael Garcia, been stopped in its tracks.
Those reform-minded members confirmed they had been approached in the corridors between sessions of a two-day meeting in Zurich on Thursday and Friday.
That meeting coincided with a visit by Garcia, the head of the investigatory chamber of Fifa’s ethics committee, to interview all 13 surviving members of the executive committee from December 2010 about the vote and also allegations of corruption during Fifa’s 2011 presidential elections.
Uefa president Michel Platini, who was also spoken to by Garcia, is thought to have been made aware of the attempted coup indirectly.
The Frenchman, who has openly admitted voting for Qatar to host the 2022 World Cup, told The Telegraph on Tuesday: “I condemn any possible attempt to derail the investigation. I want it to go to the very end.”
Fifa’s British vice-president Jim Boyce, who joined the governing body after the 2010 vote, said he would have considered his position had the Garcia investigation been thwarted.
He said: “There was a bit of informal chat about the possibility that some people wanted to see Garcia removed from the inquiry and that it might be raised at the ExCo meeting but it wasn’t.
“As someone who has been brought up with honesty and integrity – and it was a great honour for me to be asked to be a vice-president – if this had been proposed at the ExCo meeting or I thought for one moment Garcia would be removed in any fashion from carrying out his full investigation, I and others would be aghast and would have had to consider our positions because things at Fifa have been improving greatly.”
Fellow executive committee member Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein added: “I am very happy that Michael Garcia will continue in his work. There were some questions raised about the necessity of having an Independent Ethics Committee but, to be honest, I think that idea was stopped.
“There were certain people like myself who could not accept that this could happen.
“He was supported by our Congress and given a mandate and I am very happy he will continue with his work.”
Another senior Fifa source told The Telegraph that stopping the Garcia investigation would have been “the biggest own-goal Fifa have ever done”.
Fifa did not respond to requests for a statement, while a spokesperson for Garcia issued a “no comment” reply to a request to establish if he was aware of the plans to end his role.
He was appointed in June 2012 as part of a reform process instigated a year earlier in the wake of a host of corruption scandals to engulf Fifa.
The former attorney for the Southern District of New York was empowered by Congress to “leave no stone unturned” in his quest to discover if there had been any wrongdoing regarding the voting procedures in the World Cup bidding process.
The Telegraph last week revealed the existence of documents indicatingmoney had changed hands between disgraced former Fifa vice-presidents Jack Warner and Mohammed Bin Hammam shortly after that vote.
Garcia is understood to be interested in acquiring the same evidence.