Michael J Garcia, head of the new investigatory chamber of the Ethics Committee, also claimed unspecified powers of enforcement against anyone – past, present or future – guilty of corruption and other ethical misdeeds.
But he and new adjudicatory judge Hans-Joachim Eckert appear concerned to ensure, for the sake of their own credibility, that the complaints system should be opened as wide as possible.
Garcia said: “There are matters which have been the subject of publicity. We’ll take a fresh look at everything. It’s important to have a pipeline to receive complaints and it’s important to open that up. We’ve had a discussion on a longer-term complaint process and short-term fix to get that up and running as part of a website or portal.”
Though the American attorney’s appointment was confirmed only 10 days ago by the world football federation’s executive committee, he has already been busy.
Garcia is looking into all issues laid bare by the recent, long-delayed publication of the ISL file and was also instrumental in the imposition of a 90-day suspension on controversial Qatari Mohamed Bin Hammam.
The ISL file stemmed from the bankruptcy of the former FIFA marketing partner and detailed illicit payments running into many millions of dollars to officials including once all-powerful Brazilians Joao Havelange and Ricardo Teixeira.
As for Bin Hammam, he succeeded earlier this month in persuading the Court of Arbitration for Sport to overturn a lifetime ban for bribery only to then be banned for 31 days by the Asian confederation over allegations of financial impropriety.
On Thursday FIFA imposed a new ban – of 90 days – on Bin Hammam while Garcia investigates the CAS verdict and the AFC accusations (contained in an audit by PriceWaterhouseCoopers and which Bin Hammam denies).
Garcia said: “The ban was done after careful consideration of the CAS decision and the PwC report. It’s not appropriate to get into a debate over what the PwC report says . . . but I can say that we are going to look at these and decide on the appropriate course of action going forward.”
The full range of potential targets to keep Garcia busy for years also includes the awards of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Russia and Qatar respectively and what current president Sepp Blatter may or may not have known about the ISL farrago at the time while he was general secretary then chief executive.
Garcia described the new Code of Ethics as the means to ensure FIFA fulfilled its responsibility as guardian of the reputation of the game. The Ethics Committee was “central to fulfilling that responsibility as a guard against illegal, unethical and corrupt practices.”
He saw his duties as establishing a modus operandi in terms of “processes and procedures” so that all those who came within the scope of the Code of Ethics could be educated on the prohibitions and obligations implicit ina position of authority within the game.
Garcia thought “we have got off to a great start,” but he warned that ther nature of the work meant he had to be extremely circumspect about what he could ever say about possible, prospective and current investigations.
This should not be considered an admission of flaws in the process, insisted Eckert who added: “We will not accept any influence on us. It’s very important to get this message across. Let me put that very clearly.”
Garcia insisted that he was not subject to any limitations as to what issues he could investigate from FIFA’s murky recent past. However he did concede that his hands could be tied by the rules, regulations and possible sanctions from the time of any alleged offences.
In reply to a direct question he said he had the potential to reopen old issues concerning former FIFA vice-president Jack Warner but would have to assess any action in terms of the rules and regulations at the time.
“There’s no [time] limitation in this code,” said Garcia. “There are limits in terms of violations and penalties in terms of fairness but there is no per se bar on whether you can conduct an investigation.”