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Newly Released World Cup Corruption Report Not as Clean as FIFA Claimed

FIFA released Michael Garcia's full report into allegations of corruption involving the 2018 and 2022 World Cup bids. Here's what we've found so far.

by Aaron Gordon & Sean Newell
Jun 27 2017, 7:30pm

Original images via Flickr and Wikimedia Commons/VICE Sports Illustration

One day after a reporter from the German newspaper BILD claimed to have obtained a full copy of Michael Garcia's report on his investigation of allegations of corruption with regard to the 2018 and 2022 World Cup bidding, FIFA released the full report itself. Garcia, who served as chairman of the investigatory chamber of the FIFA Ethics Committee, resigned in protest after FIFA published a 42-page summary of his 430-page, three-part report that largely cleared the Russia 2018 and Qatar 2022 bids of any wrongdoing. At the time, Garcia said the summary contained "numerous materially incomplete and erroneous representations of facts and conclusions." Now we have the full report and can see just what those misrepresentations were.

FIFA released three separate documents, a main report, the lion's share of which concerns the Qatar 2022 bid, and individual documents for the Russia 2018 bid, and the United States 2022 bid. Both the Russia and U.S. bids come off cleanly, but other bids are more suspect. We are going to update this post as we continue to parse through the report, but we will start with Qatar and Australia.

Qatar Government Involvement

The investigation into Qatar Government Involvement, which begins on page 164 of the main report, reveals what appears to be a link involving the sale of liquified natural gas in exchange for the Thailand Football Association's support of Asian Football Confederation president Mohamed Bin Hammam's 2011 bid to be elected FIFA president, and for the Qatar 2022 World Cup bid. Bin Hammam dropped out of the presidential race in May 2011 amid bribery allegations, and has since been banned from FIFA for life.

The report notes an inordinately close relationship between the Qatari government and the Qatar 2022 bid, with the government sending out a notice requiring "'[a]ll ministries, governmental institutions, organizations and public foundations' to 'cooperate' with Qatar's bid committee, including by assisting the committee in 'overcoming' any 'obstacle[s].'" While the investigation did not find credible allegations of direct governmental influence, there were instances of state-controlled businesses being involved in the bid process.

The report spends considerable time exploring the conduct of Joe Sim, a supposed "Chief Advisor" to Thai FA president and FIFA Executive Committee member Worawi Makudi. While Sim's official title is not necessarily clear, the report says he was close with Makudi and often accompanied him to official Thai FA meetings where he was introduced as an advisor. The investigation strongly suggests that Sim was involved in negotiations with Qatargas, a state-controlled company, to work out a deal for a reduced price for liquified natural gas (LNG), in exchange for the Thai FA supporting Qatar's bid.

Sim also bcc'd an assistant for Bin Hammam on the email referenced above.

Sim later told Garcia's investigators that the email was meant to discuss potential sponsorship of the Thai National Football Team by Qatargas, and had nothing to do with LNG sales. But later reports indicated that Thailand's state-run energy company, PTT Public Company Limited, was looking to re-negotiate a contract with Qatargas.

As footnote 1081 notes, just three months before Sim sent his email, PTT was attempting to renegotiate a fixed deal because of a decline in liquified natural gas prices. PTT wanted to use the current rate, rather than the previously agreed upon price. Seven months after the World Cup was awarded to Qatar, Qatar delivered LNG to PPT at the current price.

Because of this, and several inconsistencies between the principle parties involved, the investigation concluded "[o]n its face, Mr. Sim's August 2010 email to the Chairman of Qatar Petroleum, blind-copied to Mr. Bin Hammam's assistant, gives the appearance that a LNG contract was being negotiated through football channels," and suggested that further investigation into Makudi was needed, given his role as Thai FA president and FIFA executive committee voting member.

Australia 2022 Got Played By FIFA "Insiders"

Australia was the only 2022 bid that didn't have representation on the executive committee, putting it at a natural disadvantage. So, they tried to buy one, Garcia's report alleges. A section of the report says the bid went to great lengths to get Franz Beckenbauer, a member of FIFA's executive committee from 2007 to 2011, on their side by hiring Fedor Radmann, Beckenbauer's right-hand man, as a consultant. Radmann's relationship to Beckenbauer is alternately described by FIFA insiders in the report as a friend, business partner, aide, spokesman, and frequent travel companion. The report makes clear that Radmann was hired because of his relationship with Beckenbauer.

Prior to this, Radmann was pitching his "services" around as a bid consultant, chairs of the US and England bids told Garcia's investigators. The chairs of the US and English bids declined to hire him for appearance reasons. So, at least some people within FIFA understood that hiring an executive committee's best friend as a consultant didn't look good.

The Australia bid understood the optics as well, but only insofar as they attempted to cover it up, according to the report. Australia 2022 eventually hired Radmann as a subcontractor through another firm, steps the Garcia Report interprets as attempts to mask his ties to the bid (although the Australian bid told Garcia's investigators it was at Radmann's request for "taxation reasons"). Tax evasion notwithstanding, the Australian bid used code names in internal emails and referred to the duo by their initials, "F&F", and other single-letter codes, dictated via a password-protected list of aliases. "I have no intention to be reading my emails in some paper," bid strategist, and Sepp Blatter confidant, Peter Hargitay wrote to a colleague.

Throughout the negotiations, Hargitay always blind-copied Radmann in pertinent emails (but, oddly, mentioned in a few such emails he was bcc'ing him). In October 2009, another member of the Australian bid accidentally cc'd Radmann so every recipient could see he was on the email. According to the report, "Mr. Hargitay responded sternly: 'Please do not list Fedor in the recipient lines!!!!! You simply MUST NOT do that. Why? Because you are thus jeopardizing everything.'"

Although the report doesn't hold back on condemning Radmann's sketchy association with the bid, it is less conclusive about the actual impact hiring Radmann had on Beckenbauer's vote. Beckenbauer was willing to publicly trash the England and US bids—which, of course, declined to hire his friend—but the report provides little evidence Beckenbauer lobbied on behalf of the Australian bid. Beckenbauer denied pledging to vote for Australia, which received only one vote. He also declined to tell the Garcia Report who he voted for.

For his part, Hargitay trashed the Qatar bid in personal emails to Blatter and forwarded confidential executive committee correspondence to the Australians to prove he had insider access, but there's precious little evidence any of this translated into votes, given that Australia only received one.

Jack Warner Gets A Job For His Banker's Son

One of the most ridiculous anecdotes from the whole report comes, somewhat predictably, via Jack Warner, the man who used to be one of the most influential people in soccer.

On May 25, 2009, Warner emailed Lord David Triesman, the FA chairman and head of the England 2018 bid team, to ask for the exact kind of favor FIFA regulations prevent:

"I need your help. My banker's son, Richard Sebro, is presently studying in England and is in dire need of a job of some kind which will be able to assist him re the payment of his fees etc. Normally I will not ask the favour of you but the kid used to work with me here in T&T before he left for study overseas and is a tremendous person all round. I really will like to help him and it is therefore under these circumstances I have come to you for assistance. I am quite sure if any hurdles exist which may militate against his immediate employment you will be able to use your best efforts to overcome them and, consequently, I extend my thanks to you for your kindness and understanding re my request."

The fact that a FIFA executive committee member sent an email that sounds vaguely like a Nigerian scammer is noteworthy enough. But, Warner isn't even beating around the bush here. His brazenness is ridiculous to the point of parody.

On June 7, presumably after not hearing anything back, Warner followed up and forwarded the email to Andy Anson and Jane Bateman, both executives on the England 2018 campaign.

"Chairman, once again, I do wish to advise you of my interest in Richard Sebro and the urgent need of some positive assistance for him," Warner wrote, and included a note he had already written to Sebro promising that he would hear from the England FA.

The FA responded and said they would be meeting with Sebro at Wembley soon. Warner followed up a week later just to check in. All of this pestering ended up with Sebro working a summer job for Tottenham. Warner apparently then thanked them but "pressured England 2018 to continue monitoring Mr. Sebro's employment situation."

As the report notes, "Mr. Warner's gratitude was short-lived." Less than two weeks later, Warner sent an incredibly bitchy email to Lord Triesman which I'm going to copy in full because it is one of the most remarkable emails I have read in some time:

"Chairman, I do wish to register my profound disappointment with the FA re its failure to assist Richard Sebro with gainful employment for a protracted period of time as I have kindly requested of the FA. A promise of a few days here and a few days there is not what I had in mind Chairman and then even that has been long in coming. While my disappointment is profound, possibly I should not have been surprised and do wish to advise that if this simple request of mine proves to be a difficulty of any kind to achieve I will understand."

Oddly, Bateman replied by saying Sebro was perfectly happy at his job. Warner said, "if Richard is happy then so am I."

After Sebro's job at Tottenham ended in August, the FA offered him one at Wembley. Sebro, who was a student at Wolverampton University at the time, wrote an appreciative letter to Warner:

I thought I would thank you once again for helping me to have the opportunity to get an interesting, eye opening and pers[p]ective changing job during these summer months. My colleagues in Wolverhampton with similar qualifications are competing for extra shifts in McDonalds and I fully appreciate the privilege not [] having to do that.

A year later in October 2010, only a few months before the World Cup award vote, the whole process repeated itself. Warner asked for a job for Sebro in the "Wolverhampton/West Midlands area" for "20 hours per week" at a "minimum of 10 pounds per hour." Nobody wrote back, and Warner went off again. "I will have to come to terms with the reality that...in the simple matter of assisting Richard Sebro, you are unable to help."

But they were able to help. On November 15, 2010, Sebro got a job with Aston Villa. That same day, a member of the England 2018 staff emailed Warner. "Hi Jack, hope you are well. The pressure is mounting with only 17 days to go," a clear reference to the World Cup vote.

Then, in the same email, the official switched topics. "I trust Richard has told you his news."

Sandro Rossell's "Questionable Conduct" with Qatar 2022

Sandro Rossell, a former Nike official in Brazil recently arrested for a money laundering scheme involving audiovisual rights for Brazil matches, was a trusted asset for the Qatar 2022 bid due to his relationships throughout international football, including his close friendship with FIFA exco member Ricardo Teixeira. Rossell was tapped, at "€2,000 for every day it required him to work," to help determine the feasibility of success for a Qatar 2022 bid. He was not technically a consultant, but he provided "strategic input" to the higher ups in Qatar.
Garcia's report highlights several instances in which Rossell worked with Qatar 2022 CEO Hassan Al-Thawadi, Andreas Bleicher—who runs Aspire, a government-backed sports academy—and others "on football matters apparently not connected directly, if at all, to Qatar's World Cup bid." The report continues:

"Mr. Rosell was elected President of FC Barcelona in June 2010—during the campaign, Mr. Bleicher described him to Mr. Al-Thawadi as "the most promising candidate by far"1183—and in the ensuing months met repeatedly with Al-Thawadi, Mr. Bleicher, and others to negotiate a lucrative sponsorship deal with the Qatar Foundation.

"The nature of some business matters Qatar 2022 officials discussed with Mr. Rosell during the bidding process is not clear from the record. Mr. Rosell sent separate emails—both of which he later forwarded to Mr. Bleicher—to Qatar 2022's Chairman and CEO in late 2009 thanking them for a "transfer from Qatar" that he "just received." The communications do not specify the reason for the "transfer." In the note to the bid team's Chairman, His Excellency Sheikh Mohammed bin Hamad Al-Thani ("Sheikh Mohammed"), Mr. Rosell wrote that "this means I'll be able to invest this money for my interest, that I hope, finally, will be yours," and that "this means that you value my commitment with your country and your people, starting with you and your family." The email to CEO Hassan Al-Thawadi stated, "I hope that all we are doing, in all senses, will be good for all of us. No doubt, that I'll dedicate all my efforts to make our dream happen[]."

The investigation concluded that the shifty nature of the dealings and the lack of transparency suggested that Rossell and Qatar may have worked together on the bid. This was "problematic in light of Mr. Rossell's questionable conduct," which including a $2 million wire transfer to Ricardo Teixeira's daughter. Bleicher told the investigation that this was done to avoid certain tax implications regarding a private real estate deal involving Rossell and Teixeira. The investigation notes that there is no documentation linking the wire transfer to Qatar 2022, but since Rossell was a football official at the time of all these events, the report notes that "appropriate proceedings will be initiated."

Japan's $1,200 Wooden Balls

During the 2018 and 2022 bid process, FIFA had a rule against giving Executive Committee members expensive gifts. Very few bids followed this rule.

The long and short of FIFA's rule was that bids could only give "occasional gifts that are generally regarded as having symbolic or incidental value." With that in mind, here is what the report found about the Japanese bid (thanks to the bid's cooperation with investigators, which included providing receipts for all the items below):

  • A wooden ball made from Japanese cedar valued at $1,200. Given to Blatter and executive committee members Hany Abo Rida, Amos Adamu, Jacques Anouma, Franz Beckenbauer, Julio Grondona, Issa Hayatou, Nicolas Leoz, Worawi Makudi, Michel Platini, Rafael Salguero, Ricardo Teixeira, and Angel Maria Villar Llona.
  • A pendant worth approximately $1,000 to the wives of Grondona, Leoz, and Teixeira.
  • A cheaper pendant worth $700 to the wives of Beckenbauer, Michel D'Hooghe, Hayatou, Marios Lefkaritis, Makudi, Geoff Thompson, and Platini.
  • A digital camera worth $1,200 to Chuck Blazer, Grondona, Hayatou, Leoz, Platini, Teixeira, Temarii, Thompson, and Jack Warner.

In the grand scheme of things, this isn't the most important revelation from the report. But when the investigators asked members of the executive committee if they remembered receiving these gifts, their replies reveal just how shameless their lifestyles were.

Jacques Anouma, a former ExCo member from the Ivory Coast, told the investigators he recalled receiving "some little gifts" but "nothing" meant to influence his vote. Temarii recalled receiving a "little wooden trophy" (he's talking about the $1,200 piece of Japanese wood). He had no recollection of the $1,200 digital camera. Makudi remembered getting the "Japanese ball" as he called it, but not the pendant his wife received.

The report concludes that "there are various potential explanations for the Executive Committee members' statements, all of them troubling." The one I find most convincing is the last the report offers: "it is possible that some or all of the Executive Committee members sincerely forgot receiving the gifts four years ago. If so, this would suggest receipt of such items was not out of the ordinary and so created no lasting impression."

Let's take a moment and reflect on the lifestyle one must lead for this to be the case, to have no recollection of going to Japan to evaluate their World Cup bid and receiving a $1,200 piece of wood, a $1,000 digital camera, and/or a $700 pendant for your wife. Extrapolate from this what their lives must be like if almost $3,000 worth of "gifts" are deemed to have "symbolic or incidental value." Just think about that for a second, and pretty much everything else about FIFA falls into place.

Korea's "Global Football Fund"

On October 18, 2010, about three weeks before the vote, Chung Mong-Joon, a FIFA ExCo member and former Korea Football Association president, sent letters to other ExCo members about something called the Global Football Fund.

What is the Global Football Fund? That's an excellent question. It seems to have been a completely made-up thing which existed as an idea only in the letters Chung sent to his ExCo colleagues. The investigation obtained three such letters sent to Jack Warner, Amos Adamu, and Reynald Temarii. Chung did not send letters to ExCo members closely associated with rival bids, such as Chuck Blazer and Mohammed Bin Hammam.

The letters were mostly identical and described a $777 million kitty to be distributed by 2022 in order to "aid confederations and member associations to build new football infrastructure and renovate existing facilities" as well as train new coaches, administrators, and players.

But, "most significantly," Chung wrote according to Garcia's report, the funds would be distributed to the "respective continents," leaving "each confederation to administer for concrete development projects." Of course, Warner, Adamu, and Temarii all held senior positions in the regional confederations. There's almost no space between the lines here to read. Chung's letters, if vague on implementation, were pretty clearly offers to send a shit ton of money to the confederations, which they could use in whatever way they wanted with zero oversight.

Hilariously, Chung made slight amendments to the nature of the Global Football Fund in order to suit the letter's recipient. For Adamu, who was not the president of a regional confederation but rather a senior committee member, Chung added that "We will also make sure that the FIFA Exco Members will have a say in the distribution of the Fund for their respective continents." For Temarii, who had already made clear he was voting for Australia, Chung wrote, "I understand your circumstances and your interest in Australia, but I hope we can be of help to each other."

Needless to say, the Global Football Fund was not a real thing, nor had it been discussed in any semi-official capacity before these letters. It wasn't in Korea's bid book. It wasn't in the supplement Korea submitted to FIFA two months after the bid book was submitted. It wasn't in any of Korea's responses to follow-up questions FIFA sent. However, in Korea's oral presentation to the executive committee the day before the vote, Korea "highlighted a proposal to contribute $777 million to football development" according to Garcia's report.

The guy in charge of preparing all of Korea's bid documents, Jaebum Kim, set a record for the vaguest possible answer when asked where the $777 million would come from: "As far as I understood, the Global Football Fund was planned to raise contributions from all the available sources in both public and private sectors at domestic, regional, and global levels." Got that? It'll come from the government or not the government from somewhere on Earth. When asked the same question, Chung responded, "no details were discussed."

OK, so a FIFA official made thinly veiled and poorly thought bribes. What else is new? I'll tell you what. Somebody snitched.

Three weeks after the letters were sent, FIFA Secretary General Jerome Valcke asked the Korea bid what the hell was going on with the Global Football Fund letters. This, of course, came right after a Sunday Times undercover sting that captured FIFA ExCo members soliciting bribes on camera.

Chung responded to Valcke with, as the report put it, "bafflement and annoyance."

"To be honest, I am not very happy with your request to divulge my private correspondence to my FIFA colleagues on a perfectly legitimate subject."

Almost five years to the day after Chung sent the letters, Chung was banned from FIFA for six years. He is currently appealing the suspension in the Court of Arbitration for Sport.