FIFA investigator among Americans barred from Russia in rights dispute

Sun Apr 14, 2013 7:36am EDT
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By Steve Gutterman

MOSCOW (Reuters) - The chief investigator examining allegations of wrongdoing in soccer including the bidding process for the 2018 World Cup in Russia is one of 18 people on a list of Americans barred from entering Russia over what Moscow says are human rights abuses.

Michael Garcia, a former U.S. federal prosecutor who now works for soccer's world governing body, FIFA, is on the blacklist published by Russia's Foreign Ministry on Saturday after Washington named 18 Russians barred from entering the United States for alleged rights abuses.

It was not immediately clear whether his blacklisting could affect Russia's hosting of the soccer World Cup in 2018.

As a U.S. attorney, Garcia was involved in the successful effort to arrest and try Viktor Bout, a Russian who was long wanted by U.S. authorities on suspicion of arms trafficking. Bout is serving a 25-year jail term in the United States.

Garcia, whose past responsibilities have also included enforcing arms regulations and money laundering statutes, was elected last July to investigate allegations of corruption as head of the investigative chamber of FIFA's ethics committee.

He did not immediately respond to emails requesting comment.

The joint bidding process to host the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, won by Russia and Qatar, has been tainted by a corruption scandal after a number of high-ranking FIFA officials were banned for breaching the body's ethics code.

FIFA said in January the ethics committee would conduct a "thorough review" of allegations about the process.   Continued...

Michael J. Garcia, Chairman of the investigatory chamber of the FIFA Ethics Committee attends a news conference at the at the Home of FIFA in Zurich July 27, 2012. REUTERS/Michael Buholzer