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Michael Garcia sends World Cup report to FIFA

AP - Sports

LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) -- The evidence which could strip Qatar of the 2022 World Cup has landed at FIFA.

The governing body of world football said Friday it received three reports from ethics investigator Michael Garcia and his team after their year-long probe of alleged corruption in the 2018 and 2022 World Cup bidding contests.

Qatar and Russia, the 2018 host, were chosen in December 2010 by FIFA's widely discredited executive committee.

FIFA did not say if Garcia's 350-page report, drawing on 200,000 pages of evidence, has put Qatar's hosting rights into question.

''The report sets forth detailed factual findings; reaches conclusions concerning further action with respect to certain individuals; identifies issues to be referred to other FIFA committees; and makes recommendations for future bidding processes,'' FIFA said in a statement.

Garcia sought to interview all the FIFA board members involved in the 2018-2022 bid contests, though it is unclear how many cooperated. Garcia and his investigation team met with officials from all nine bid candidates in a tour which started last October.

Garcia did not investigate Russia - where he is barred because of his previous work as a U.S. Attorney - or the American bid, which lost to Qatar in a final round of voting. Separate investigations on those bids were submitted by Cornel Borbely, a Swiss lawyer who is a deputy chairman on the ethics committee.

The reports, delayed since July, will now be examined by FIFA ethics judge Joachim Eckert, who can impose sanctions. It is unclear if Eckert has authority to remove hosts or order re-votes.

Eckert, however, can seek follow-up interviews or ''return the final report to (Garcia's) investigatory chamber for amendment or completion,'' according to FIFA's code of ethics.

FIFA gave Garcia and Eckert unlimited time and money to complete their probe of a subject which has dogged FIFA and threatened the image - though not the robust commercial strength - of its marquee tournament. FIFA earned about $4.5 billion from the 2014 World Cup in Brazil and future broadcasting and sponsorship deals have increased in value.

FIFA President Sepp Blatter has insisted only his ruling executive committee can change hosting decisions.

Eckert could apply sanctions against any of the nine bid candidates, their staffers or officials who were FIFA executive committee members in 2010.

Russia beat England and joint bids from Spain-Portugal and Netherlands-Belgium for the 2018 tournament. Qatar beat the United States 14-8 in a final round after Australia, Japan and South Korea were eliminated.

Blatter has since acknowledged it was a mistake to run two contests at the same time because it invited collusion.

The Emir of Qatar held aloft the World Cup trophy after his country's victory was confirmed, and Russia's then-Prime Minister Vladimir Putin flew in that evening for one of his trademark marathon news conferences. Former President Bill Clinton had been part of the defeated American team in Zurich, and Prince William and Prime Minister David Cameron had pressed England's case.

Within days of the vote, the integrity of Qatar's bid was in question from suggestions soccer could not be played in 40 degree C (104 degree F) desert heat of June and July.

FIFA has since begun consultations to switch the traditional World Cup dates to cooler months, with a November kickoff favored.

Qatar has been the subject of more damaging allegations, often from British media and including whistleblowers claims, that it bought support and influence from FIFA voters. Its World Cup organizing committee denies wrongdoing.

In 2010, Qatari official Mohamed bin Hammam was a key powerbroker on the FIFA board. A former longtime Blatter ally, he was accused of bribing Caribbean voters during his failed bid for the FIFA presidency in 2011.

Bin Hammam won a legal fight to overturn a FIFA life ban in that case, but was expelled again in 2012 over financial management when he was Asian Football Confederation president.

Several voters in 2010 have since resigned from FIFA while under investigation for financial wrongdoing, and others have been subject to unproven allegations for seeking favors.

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