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FIFA prosecutor Garcia denounces secrecy of probes, calls for leadership to promote ethics

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LONDON — FIFA's intelligence agency-style secrecy instills little confidence among soccer fans, ethics prosecutor Michael Garcia said Monday.

Garcia called on the organization's leaders to change the secretive culture at a time when FIFA President Sepp Blatter is under fire for refusing to allow the publication of the American attorney's corruption investigation into the 2018 and 2022 World Cup bids. The evasiveness has seen the governing body unable to shake off its negative image after being dogged by corruption cases for several years.

"The investigation and adjudication process operates in most parts unseen and unheard," Garcia said at an American Bar Association lunch in London. "That's a kind of system which might be appropriate for an intelligence agency but not for an ethics compliance process in an international sports institution that serves the public and is the subject of intense public scrutiny."

Garcia pointed to the how the International Olympic Committee "moved forward" after publishing the results of a transparent investigation into the 2002 Salt Lake City corruption scandal. Instead, the fallout of the December 2010 vote that saw Russia awarded the 2018 World Cup and Qatar the 2022 event continues.

"Where investigations have been opaque problems and skepticism have lingered," Garcia said.

The former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York pointed to the criticism faced by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell for his handling of the Ray Rice domestic violence case.

"A lack of transparency in (the NFL's) initial investigation concerning Ray Rice fostered skepticism and questions about the integrity of its leadership," Garcia said. "Now the NFL has to bring in outside counsel to investigate the investigation. Notably the NFL has made clear the results of the new investigation will indeed be made public."

That is unlike Garcia's FIFA investigation, with Blatter saying the ethics code requires the report to remain secret. Garcia called last month for "appropriate publication" from the 430 pages of evidence reports submitted by his investigative team to ethics judge Joachim Eckert.

Garcia told the lunch in central London that what "FIFA needs in order to meet the challenge of ethics enforcement is leadership ... leadership that sends a message that the rules apply to everyone."

"True reform doesn't come from rules or creating new committee structures," Garcia added. "It comes from changing the culture of the organization. That is the vision needed to light the path forward for ethics in sports."


Rob Harris can be followed at http://www.twitter.com/RobHarris

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