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Fifa reformists halt plan to derail corruption probe

London: Fifa’s self-acclaimed transparent reform process headed by New York lawyer Michael Garcia came within hours of being sabotaged from within the organisation last week.

The position of Garcia himself and his role as the head of the Independent Ethics Commission looking into alleged corruption surrounding the voting procedure for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, and the 2011 Fifa presidential election, came under threat from a number of senior Fifa power-brokers.

Members of Fifa’s executive committee said they would have considered their positions had the investigation into Fifa’s affairs by Garcia been halted before he had completed his work.

A number of reform-minded members confirmed they stopped the plan before it was even discussed in full session, after being approached in the corridors between sessions of the executive committee meetings at Fifa’s headquarters in Zurich on Thursday and Friday.

At almost exactly the same time, Garcia was in Zurich carrying out further investigations into Fifa’s workings. There is no suggestion Fifa president Sepp Blatter played any role in the plan to stop what he has widely acclaimed as Fifa’s new “transparent” reform process.

When approached to comment on the alleged plot to end the investigation, Fifa’s British vice-president Jim Boyce said that as far as he was concerned, he would have had to consider his position had any attempt to halt the investigation succeeded.

Boyce, who is also the head of Fifa’s referee’s committee and steps down from the committee in 15 months time, said: “There was a bit of informal chat about the possibility that some people wanted to see Garcia removed from the inquiry and that it might be raised at the ex-co meeting but it wasn’t.

“As someone who has been brought up with honesty and integrity if this had been proposed at the ex-co meeting or I thought for one moment Garcia would be removed in any fashion from carrying out his full investigation, I and others would be aghast and would have had to consider our positions because things at Fifa have been improving greatly.”

(Reuters)