For the past year and a half, I have been the victim of constant harassment by FIFA Ethics Committee’s so-called “investigation.” The persecution only intensified when I announced my candidacy for the next FIFA presidential election. Immediately after the press reported in late July this year that I am preparing to announce my candidacy, the Ethics Committee’s Investigatory Chamber informed me that my case would be sent to the Adjudicatory Chamber, an action equivalent to a prosecutor sending his indictment to the judge. It requested a 15-year ban against me. Later, it requested 4 more years for my alleged defamation of the Ethics Committee.
Because of the Ethics Committee’s unjust sanctions, I will have to miss the October 26 deadline to file my candidacy. It is now time to officially withdraw my candidacy for the next FIFA President. Even though I cannot run in this election, I believe there is still much that I can do. As someone who loves football, I will continue to speak out frankly about FIFA’s problems.
Starting in March 2014, when I was in the midst of my campaign for the Mayor of Seoul, the Ethics Committee began its endless harassment in the name of an investigation. Even in the midst of my demanding election schedule, I tried my best to respond faithfully to innumerable questions sent to me. The report compiled by Michael Garcia, then Chairman of the Investigatory Chamber of FIFA’s Ethics Committee, said that the findings of his investigations were “all in all, not suited to compromise the integrity of the FIFA World Cup 2018/2022 bidding process as a whole.”
Then, on January 20, 2015 the Ethics Committee suddenly informed me that it was launching an official investigation against me. When in December, Mr. Geoff Thompson, the English ExCo member, claimed that he had traded votes with me back in 2010 the Ethics Committee must have thought that it had found a critical piece of evidence against me. Sending me a transcript of an interview between Mr. Garcia and Mr. Thompson the committee asked: “Would it surprise you to learn that the Chairman of England 2018, Mr. Geoff Thompson has admitted to agreeing to trade your vote for Korea 2022, in exchange for England’s vote for Korea 2022?”
Mr. Thomson alleged that the vote-trading occurred when together we paid a courtesy visit on Prince William at the Prince’s request in the Prince’s suite at Baur au Lac Hotel in Zurich on December 1, 2010, one day before the vote. Prime Minister Cameron and Dr. Lee Hong-Koo, former Prime Minister of Korea and Ambassador to Great Britain, were also present at the gathering. Mr. Thomson, however, did not even remember whether Prince William was present when he and I and PM Cameron were allegedly making this deal. I pointed out all these details and then asked: “Is it even conceivable that Mr. Thompson and I would be making an illicit ‘vote trading’ deal in such company? Is FIFA accusing Prince William and the Prime Minister of Great Britain of being complicit in vote trading the day before the vote?” The Ethics Committee dropped this charge.
The Ethics Committee also investigated me for sending letters to my fellow Executive Committee members about the Korean Bidding Committee’s announcement of the “Global Football Fund” (GFF). According to the Ethics Committee this “gave the appearance of offering benefits.” Relevant FIFA regulations that the Committee has referred to, however, first appeared only in the 2012 FIFA Code of Ethics, thus was nonexistent in 2010. It had been a time-honored tradition at FIFA for Executive Committee members to support the bid of their respective countries. Moreover, Secretary General Gerome Valcke wrote to me and Dr. Han Sung-joo, the Chairman of the Korea Bid Committee, in November 2010 to say that FIFA “deem[ed] the matter as closed.” Perhaps because of all this, the Ethics Committee dropped this allegation when it announced its sanctions against me last October 8.
Since early July, just before I announced my candidacy, my friends in FIFA that I encountered in Philadelphia and Vancouver were telling me that the Ethics Committee would try to prevent me from running. As soon as I announced my candidacy in Paris on August 17, media started to report that the Ethics Committee would sanction me. Confidential information that could only have come from the Ethics Committee was leaked to the press on numerous occasions. There was even media report that even my charitable donations to natural disaster victims in Haiti and Pakistan were the target of investigation. I formally requested the FIFA Disciplinary Committee to investigate the leaks, but the request was rejected due to “a lack of evidence.” When I reported the Asia Football Confederation’s illegal activities in mailing form letters to member states in support of Platini, the Ad-hoc Electoral Committee also promptly issued a perfunctory “no evidence” letter.
When I publicly protested the Ethics Committee’s unethical and unfair actions, it imposed 4 more years of sanction in addition to the original 15, this time for allegedly defaming the Ethics Committee.
When the Ethics Committee finally announced its decision on October 8, it sanctioned me for 6 years, not for my alleged violations of “vote-trading” or “the appearance of offering a benefit regarding the Global Football Fund,” but for violating such vague articles as “General obligation to collaborate,” “Duty of disclosure,” and “confidentiality.” Mr. Hans-Joachim Eckert, the Chairman of Adjudicatory Chamber who also claimed to be the victim of defamation by me, presided over my case as the judge.
The Ethics Committee’s claim that I have defamed its reputation is in itself a bad joke. As a New York Times article stated, “the word ‘FIFA’ coupled with word ‘ethics’ is seen by most as an oxymoron.” That the Ethics Committee claims to have any good reputation that could be defamed is a joke. If there is anyone who has been the object of defamation, it is me. As FIFA leaked information to the media, portraying me as an unethical person, I felt I was left naked, helpless to defend myself, as they repeatedly cut me with a sharp knife.
The FIFA Ethics Committee started the investigation against me as if I were involved in a major corruption case. However, when its case broke down during the investigation it concluded by imposing sanctions on me for trivial matters that arose during the investigation.
Even though I can no longer stand for FIFA President, there is much left for me to do. I will continue to work with all those who love football to bring about legitimate changes from within FIFA.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank my friends in the global football community, the media, and the Korean people for their support. Many enthusiastically supported my candidacy and efforts to reform FIFA although they could not do so publicly due to the atmosphere of fear created by FIFA. Thank you very much and I ask for your continued interest and support.