BERLIN (Reuters) - FIFA ethics judge Hans-Joachim Eckert played down differences with investigator Michael Garcia over the conclusions of a report into the vote for 2018 and 2022 World Cup hosts Russia and Qatar, saying it had not yet been finalised.
“We have reached an interim stage in the investigation,” German judge Eckert told Frankfurter Allgemeine newspaper on Saturday, two days after he had ruled out reopening the bidding process.
“He can now continue investigating towards the final report,” Eckert was quoted as saying.
World soccer’s governing body FIFA was plunged into chaos on Thursday when Eckert said there were no grounds to reopen the controversial bidding process which led to Russia being given the 2018 finals and Qatar the 2022 tournament.
Allegations of corruption and bribery surrounding the process have accompanied FIFA and the host nations ever since.
Three hours after Eckert’s statement, however, former U.S. prosecutor Garcia, who led the investigation over an 18-month period, said Eckert’s 42-page statement had misrepresented his 430-page report and that he would take the case to the FIFA appeals committee.
FIFA, which has since confirmed Garcia’s appeal, has faced growing pressure to publish the full report.
Qatar, which has repeatedly denied the allegations, has also been criticised over its treatment of migrant workers in the construction industry.
Eckert had told Reuters in Munich earlier this week he was surprised by Garcia’s reaction.
“Usually you would first speak to each other internally if you don’t like something,” he said, adding that he had not been able to get in touch with Garcia.
“It could be a misunderstanding after all,” he suggested.
Reporting by Karolos Grohmann; Editing by Rex Gowar