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FIFA Begins Meeting After American Lawyer's Angry Resignation

Michael J. Garcia, head of FIFA's investigatory chamber of the ethics committee, resigned Wednesday in protest.
Walter Bieri
Michael J. Garcia, head of FIFA's investigatory chamber of the ethics committee, resigned Wednesday in protest.

Soccer's governing body is meeting Thursday in Morocco, a day after the American lawyer, who spent two years investigating allegations of corruption in the bidding process for the World Cup, quit in protest at how FIFA handled his report.

Michael Garcia's resignation stems from events that began last month. That's when German judge Hans-Jochaim Eckert released a report that cleared Russia and Qatar of corruption in their successful bids for the soccer World Cup in 2018 and 2022, respectively. Eckert's report was based, in part, on Garcia's work. The German judge released a 42-page version of Garcia's report, which the American lawyer said contained "numerous materially incomplete and erroneous representations." He called upon Eckert to release his full 430-page work, which FIFA has sealed. On Tuesday, FIFA rejected that appeal on a technicality.

"No independent governance committee, investigator, or arbitration panel can change the culture of an organization," Garcia wrote in his resignation letter. "And while the November 13, 2014, Eckert Decision made me lose confidence in the independence of the Adjudicatory Chamber, it is the lack of leadership on these issues within FIFA that leads me to conclude that my role in this process is at an end."

Today's FIFA meeting in Morocco, which will go on until Friday, will discuss preparations for the 2018 World Cup. But it will also discuss Garcia's full 430-page report. FIFA's executive committee will vote on a measure that could lead to the publication of an edited version of the report.

The Associated Press reports that the 27 members on the panel are divided over releasing all or even part of the report. But the fact more of it hasn't been released only adds to speculation about what it contains. It also raises questions about FIFA, an organization long plagued by allegations of opacity.

The AP adds:

"Prosecutions launched by Garcia against five senior football officials for wrongdoing in the World Cup campaigns will continue. Those cases can be led by his ethics investigation deputy, Zurich-based former public prosecutor Cornel Borbely.

"Former Germany great Franz Beckenbauer, a voting member of the FIFA executive committee in 2010, is the highest profile of the five accused men.

"Three current board members — FIFA vice president Angel Maria Villar of Spain, Michel D'Hooghe of Belgium and Worawi Makudi of Thailand — also face sanctions for their actions during contests marred by claims of bribery, collusion and favor-seeking."

You can find our previous coverage of this story here.

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Krishnadev Calamur is NPR's deputy Washington editor. In this role, he helps oversee planning of the Washington desk's news coverage. He also edits NPR's Supreme Court coverage. Previously, Calamur was an editor and staff writer at The Atlantic. This is his second stint at NPR, having previously worked on NPR's website from 2008-15. Calamur received an M.A. in journalism from the University of Missouri.