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FIFA unveils new crime fighting duo to tackle corruption in soccer

updated 2:55 PM EDT, Tue July 17, 2012
Sepp Blatter vowed to steer FIFA away from
Sepp Blatter vowed to steer FIFA away from "troubled waters" when he was re-elected as president in June 2011
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • FIFA unveil two new appointments to their Ethics Committee at press call in Zurich
  • US attorney Michael J Garcia and German judge Hans-Joachim Eckert join organization
  • Pair will help investigate allegations of wrongdoing in world football
  • First task is to probe documents relating to case involving marketing firm ISL

(CNN) -- FIFA has employed a pair of high-profile crimefighters to help tackle corruption in the game, after a wake of scandals that have engulfed soccer's world governing body.

President Sepp Blatter announced that former United States attorney Michael J Garcia and German judge Hans-Joachim Eckert had joined the organization to probe allegations of wrongdoing.

Their first task will be to investigate a Swiss court document after an investigation into alleged illegal payments made by FIFA marketing partner International Sports and Leisure (ISL) to former FIFA president Joao Havelange and former executive committee member Ricardo Teixeira.

The report found that Havelange had received at least 1.5 million Swiss francs ($1.53 million) and Teixeira was paid at least CHF 12.4 million ($12.64 million) from marketing partner ISL.

Blatter: I knew about 'illegal' payments

Last week Blatter admitted that he did know about the alleged bribes handed to former FIFA executives, but insisted he didn't think they were illegal at the time.

As well as the new appointments, Blatter also announced a new FIFA Code of Ethics which includes provision to remove time limitations for the prosecution of bribery and corruption cases.

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A turbulent period for FIFA began in May 2010. Whilst most of the world's soccer fans were more concerned with Africa's first World Cup finals that June, FIFA was presented with official bid documents by Australia, England, Netherlands/Belgium, Japan, South Korea, Qatar, Russia, Spain/Portugal and the United States for the 2018 and 2022 tournaments. During the ceremony at its Swiss headquarters, FIFA announced dates for inspections of the bidding nations from July-September. A turbulent period for FIFA began in May 2010. Whilst most of the world's soccer fans were more concerned with Africa's first World Cup finals that June, FIFA was presented with official bid documents by Australia, England, Netherlands/Belgium, Japan, South Korea, Qatar, Russia, Spain/Portugal and the United States for the 2018 and 2022 tournaments. During the ceremony at its Swiss headquarters, FIFA announced dates for inspections of the bidding nations from July-September.
May 14, 2010
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He said the new two-chamber court would help to prosecute cases more quickly and could look retrospectively at old cases, including the process surrounding the decision to award the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Russia and Qatar respectively.

"I don't see any limitation if anything has happened," he told a press conference at FIFA's headquarters in Zurich, Switzerland, when asked about the ISL case.

"We have a new set of rules and regulations, we have new regulations for the Ethics Committee, we have no statute of limitations there.

"What you are mentioning right now, this is a case that has been taken to the Supreme Court in Switzerland, where a decision was taken, so FIFA will now look into only moral and ethical issues."

Garcia was appointed head of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency in the Department of Homeland Security by former president George W. Bush.

He has prosecuted a number of high-profile cases including the 1993 terrorist bombing of the World Trade Center in New York.

Eckert is a specialist when it comes to big bribery charges, and presided over an investigation into German telecommunications giant Siemens that uncovered billion-dollar payments.

Blatter spoke of his delight at the dual appointment on his official Twitter page, writing: "Major milestone for our governance process: Ethics Code approved, independent chairmen for investigatory & adjudicatory chambers.

"I remain 100% committed to reforms and FIFA fully backs Michael Garcia and Hans-Joachim Eckert, the two new independent chairmen.

"On my request, ISL file will be given to the new Ethics Committee. ISL is settled legally -- now it will be settled also morally."

Meanwhile, Mohamed bin Hammam, a former challenger to Blatter for the FIFA presidency, has been suspended for 30 days over new corruption allegations.

The Qatari was banned from soccer for life after a FIFA probe found him guilty of offering bribes in return for votes during his challenge to Blatter, which he withdrew hours before his ban.

He was temporarily replaced as head of the Asian Football Confederation, after serving for nine years as president. Bin Hammam has repeatedly protested his innocence and has appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport with a verdict due this week.

But the AFC announced on their website that he had been suspended after an inspection of the organization's accounts.

The audit concerned "the negotiation and execution of certain contracts and with the financial transactions made in and out of AFC bank accounts and his personal account during the tenure of Mr Bin Hammam's presidency," it said.

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