ZURICH (Reuters) - Russia’s World Cup chief said on Thursday that Swiss and U.S investigators looking into corruption in global soccer have not been in contact with him and he had no doubt the competition would go ahead in Russia in 2018.
FIFA’s award of the World Cup to Russia in 2018 and to Qatar in 2022 is one of the strands under scrutiny by U.S. and Swiss authorities carrying out investigations into the activities of some of the officials of the world soccer body.
But Alexei Sorokin, chief executive for World Cup 2018, told Reuters in an interview that neither the relevant Swiss nor U.S. authorities had even been in touch with his committee.
“We have not been contacted by a single official, be it from Switzerland or the U.S. or from any other country,” he said at the International Football Arena conference at FIFA headquarters, adding that he knew of the investigations only from the media.
Sorokin said that Russia had cooperated with FIFA’s own investigation, which was led by U.S lawyer Michael Garcia.
“We went through an investigation at the request of FIFA, by the appropriate FIFA committee. The findings are public. To the best of our efforts we complied. We submitted everything that was required. We spoke to officials conducting these investigations. We couldn’t do more, so we think the matter is effectively over,” he said. Swiss investigators declined to comment on Sorokin’s remarks. U.S investigators were not immediately available.
Buffeted by scandals over the last few years, FIFA was thrown into turmoil in May by the U.S. indictments of 14 soccer officials, including two FIFA vice-presidents, and sports marketing executives for alleged corruption.
With 11 of the 22 men who voted to back Russia and Qatar in the December 2010 vote having been banned or placed under investigation, some critics have raised the issue of a possible re-vote.
But Sorokin said he regarded the issue of whether the World Cup might be taken away from Russia as over.
“We are organizing the World Cup in Russia, whether someone has an attitude towards that or not. It will be in Russia in 2018,” he said.
“It was the will of the then deciding body in FIFA ... we still think that we had a very good, sound bid. We had a great concept and story to tell and we are implementing it now,” he said.
“We are so far on in the preparation now that we don’t understand these discussions - about whether it went to Russia justly or not,” he added.
Sorokin said Wednesday’s decision by the World Anti Doping Agency to suspend Russia’s anti-doping agency, after an independent commission report that uncovered evidence of state-sponsored doping and cover-ups, would have no negative influence on the World Cup preparations.
“We don’t see it impacting the World Cup. Our officials and international officials have stated recently that all issues could be resolved by means of joint efforts, there is nothing tragic going on, nothing irreversible going on. FIFA has its own anti-doping policy, we certainly adhere to that,” he said.
“The CEO also said that even before the attacks on Paris on Friday, World Cup organizers were working on a detailed security plan.
“As part of our efforts, our country is preparing a comprehensive security strategy, it has been serious from the very start, it has been taken very seriously by all appropriate government agencies. I don’t think that it could be any more serious. The threats have always been taken into account,” he said.
Reporting by Simon Evans; Additional reporting by Brian Homewood; Editing by Richard Balmforth