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FIFA files criminal complaint over 2018 and 2022 World Cup bids

FIFA files complaint over World Cup bribes a week after releasing a report clearing Qatar and Russia of corruption charges
FIFA President Joseph Blatter with a Saudi official at a Gulf Cup football match in Riyadh this month (AFP)

World soccer's governing body FIFA lodged a criminal complaint on Tuesday over "the possible misconduct of individual persons" in connnection with the awarding of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, casting fresh doubts over the findings of a report released last week which cleared Qatar and Russia of corruption charges.

Last Thursday, FIFA said there were no grounds to reopen the controversial bidding processes, following a long-awaited report compiled by chairman of the investigatory chamber of FIFA's Ethics Committee Michael Garcia.

However, FIFA president Sepp Blatter confirmed on Tuesday that, on the recommendation of FIFA ethics judge Hans-Joachim Eckert, it was "his duty" to lodge a complaint to the Swiss courts.

A former US Attorney, Garcia said last week that the governing body had misrepresented his findings, plunging FIFA into a fresh crisis after continued misgivings about how Russia and Qatar were handed the next two World Cups.

Eckert, at the time, ruled that any improprieties uncovered by Garcia were too minor to require new bidding.

The report said unnamed Qatari officials had engaged in "potentially problematic conduct", but concluded the actions were “all in all not suited to compromise the integrity of the FIFA World Cup 2018/2022 bidding process as a whole".

The report also said a shamed former Qatari official did not influence the bidding process. Mohammed bin Hammam, former president of the Asian Football Confederation, was banned from FIFA for life in 2011 after making “several improper payments” to football officials.

A statement released Tuesday on FIFA's website explaining its decision to lodge a criminal complaint with Swiss authorities said: "... there seem to be grounds for suspicion that, in isolated cases, international transfers of assets with connections to Switzerland took place, which merit examination by the criminal prosecution authorities."

Social media users were quick to react.