FIFA judge, prosecutor decry ousting, future of ethics cases
MANAMA, Bahrain (AP) — FIFA ousted its judge and prosecutor on Tuesday in a move the disgruntled pair said jeopardizes the governing body’s integrity and the future of soccer.
German judge Hans-Joachim Eckert and Swiss prosecutor Cornel Borbely failed in a bid to be nominated by the council headed by FIFA President Gianni Infantino for re-election. The vote will be carried out by the congress of member federations on Thursday.
Eckert and Borbely have multiple ongoing cases against soccer officials implicated in a widespread U.S. federal investigation of bribery and corruption.
“The impending and clearly politically motivated non-reappointment puts de facto an end to the reform efforts,” Eckert and Borbely said in a statement. “This will inevitably lead to a renewed loss of trust and further hurt the already tarnished image of FIFA. Consequently, the non-reappointment will have a negative impact on FIFA in the medium and long term.”
Eckert and Borbely have been with the ethics court since a revamp with greater independence in 2012, and have banned multiple officials during the biggest corruption crisis in FIFA’s history. FIFA said that its ruling council proposed Greek judge Vassilios Skouris and Colombian lawyer Maria Claudia Rojas.
“The successors of both chairmen will have to familiarize themselves with the dossiers and the processes,” Eckert and Borbely said in a statement. “The non-election will lead to long delays in current investigations and proceedings, and complicate the prosecution of violations of the code of ethics.
“It appears that the heads of FIFA have attached greater weight to their own and political interests, than to the long-term interests of FIFA. They have accepted jeopardizing FIFA’s integrity, and, hence, the future of the game.”
Skouris was president of the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg for 12 years until 2015.
Skouris and Rojas are set to be the headline appointments among widespread changes in FIFA judicial bodies being prepared for Thursday’s annual meeting.
Eckert’s highest profile cases included imposing bans on former FIFA president Sepp Blatter and then-UEFA president Michel Platini in December 2015. Eckert also helped judge a case against Infantino last year that ended in no action being taken over his use of private flights provided by Russian and Qatari interests.
Borbely recused himself in the cases of Infantino and Blatter as a fellow Swiss national. He is set to leave FIFA while prosecuting Franz Beckenbauer and other officials from the German organizing committee for the 2006 World Cup in a fraud case linked to millions of euros (dollars) passing through FIFA accounts.
Skouris would become the second senior official at FIFA who worked at the European court in Luxembourg during that period. FIFA’s outgoing governance committee chairman Miguel Maduro of Portugal was an advocate general at the court from 2003-09.
AP Sports Writer Graham Dunbar in Geneva contributed to this report