A criminal investigation is to be launched into the awarding of hosting rights for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.

In an unexpected development, Fifa has asked the Swiss authorities to launch a criminal inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the bidding processes, which ultimately saw the tournaments given to Russia and Qatar.

The move, which follows days of criticism of Fifa for allegedly covering up its own evidence of corruption in the bidding, raises the prospect that some of football’s most prominent current and former administrators could face criminal charges.

Announcing the referral to Switzerland’s Office of the Attorney General, Fifa’s president, Sepp Blatter, said internal inquiries had discovered “grounds for suspicion that, in isolated cases, international transfers of assets with connections to Switzerland took place”.

Fifa’s own investigation into alleged corruption – by the US lawyer Michael Garcia – did not have the authority to compel people to give evidence. Individuals who could now be interviewed by police include several members of the 22-strong committee who voted in 2010 to award the two tournaments to Russia and Qatar and who have since left Fifa after different corruption allegations.

The Swiss authorities, Fifa said in a statement, “will have the ability to conduct investigations under application of criminal procedural coercive measures”.

The decision four years ago to award the 2022 World Cup to Qatar, a country with no football history and not a single suitable stadium, has been described as the most controversial in the history of football. Anger has grown in recent months, with the realisation that Europe’s powerful domestic leagues may have to suspend their seasons so the tournament can be played in the cooler winter months… see more

source: Independent UK