MANAMA (Reuters) - Ousted FIFA Ethics investigator Cornel Borbely said on Wednesday his committee had been looking at “several hundred” cases of possible wrongdoing, some involving senior officials, before he was replaced by the body’s ruling council.
The FIFA Council decided on Tuesday not to renew the mandates of Borbely and chief ethics judge Hans-Joachim Eckert, who had led the clean-up attempt at world football’s governing body, instead nominating replacements for the pair.
Borbely and Eckert labelled the move “de facto the end of reforms” at FIFA and said it was a setback for attempts to clean up its operations.
Several dozen soccer officials, mainly from Latin America, were indicted in the United States in 2015 on corruption-related charges, sparking the worst crisis in FIFA’s history.
Among officials now banned from the sport are former FIFA President Sepp Blatter and Secretary General Jerome Valcke.
FIFA President Gianni Infantino was also investigated by the Ethics Committee, but he was cleared in August 2016.
Speaking at a news conference held close to the venue for FIFA’s Congress, Borbely said the move was a “setback for the fight against corruption” with the know-how and experience in the cases concerned likely to be lost.
“We investigated several hundred cases and several hundred are still pending and ongoing at the moment,” Borbely said, adding that he could not comment on cases still under way.
FIFA said on Tuesday that it has nominated Colombian investigator Maria Claudia Rojas as the new head of the committee’s investigatory chamber, which Borbely had headed. It also nominated Vassilios Skouris of Greece, a former president of the European Court of Justice, as head of the adjudicatory chamber that Eckert had run.
The nominations of Rojas and Skouris, along with other proposed heads of committees, will be put to a vote of the full FIFA Congress on Thursday.
FIFA said the judicial nominations, along with those for the Audit and Compliance Committee and the Governance Committee, were agreed unanimously by the FIFA Council.
“These individuals have been chosen because they are recognised, high-profile experts in their respective fields,” FIFA said in a statement on Wednesday.
“Moreover, they better reflect the geographic and gender diversity that must be a part of an international organisation like FIFA.”
The changes to the Ethics Committee follow the resignation last year of reform and compliance chief Domenico Scala, who had argued that the independent committees had been undermined by the changes made by FIFA president Infantino. Infantino denied that accusation.
Borbely said they had not been officially informed by FIFA of the end of their mandates and had found out only from the media. The Swiss investigator said the manner of their dismissal meant there would be no transition period.
“We worked well on a very high level with a huge volume of cases,” said Borbely.
“There was no need to change the Ethics Committee. The only conclusion can be that this was politically intended.”
The pair said that the FIFA administration had not interfered in their work prior to deciding to remove them.
Borbely and Eckert remain with an active mandate until the end of Thursday’s Congress.
“I cannot tell you what we will be doing.... but we take this mandate very seriously until the very end,” said Borbely.
On Tuesday, German FA president Reinhard Grindel told reporters that the move against the Ethics Committee, which sees a dozen other staff members depart as well, was the initiative of Infantino.
“You have to ask Infantino why he made this proposal,” Grindel, a member of the FIFA Council told reporters.
Grindel said he had spoken up in defence of Eckert and also said he had been assured prior to the meeting that no such move against the Ethics Committee was forthcoming.
“I asked the day before at the office of the General Secretary if there were any announcements that Borbely and Eckert will be displaced and they said no, they had no information,” he said.
“I said in the meeting that we were satisfied with the work of both people and I asked because the General Secretary made a statement in the media a few weeks ago that they will support both – and so it is a decision of the president that he makes the proposal,” he said.
Editing by Hugh Lawson and Ed Osmond