This week’s “Whistleblower Spotlight” shines on FIFA whistleblower Phaedra Almajid. Ms. Almajid worked in a senior communications role for FIFA and blew the whistle on bribery in the 2018 and 2022 FIFA World Cup bidding process. She claims she witnessed firsthand bribes made to the African FIFA executives Issa Hayatou, Jacques Anouma and Amos Adamu of $1.5 million each to vote for Qatar. Ms. Almajid, along with another whistleblower, Australian Bonita Mersiades, gave evidence to lawyer Michael Garcia, who investigated their claims of wrongdoing over a two and a half year period and submitted a report to FIFA with his findings.
Ms. Almajid claims Mr. Garcia promised to protect her identity in his investigative report, but that he broke his promise when he submitted a report to FIFA which made her identity clear. FIFA’s independent ethics adjudicator, Hans-Joachim Eckert, then published a summary of the evidence Mr. Garcia collected. Eckert’s report not only cleared Russia and Qatar of wrongdoing. It also publicly published the identifying information contained in Mr. Garcia’s report, essentially outing her and Ms. Mersiades as whistleblowers.
Ms. Almajid complained to FIFA’s disciplinary committee that Eckert breached her confidentiality. She said she “cooperated with Mr Garcia’s investigation for over two and a half years under a clear, unqualified promise of confidentiality. He asked me for my confidentiality and repeatedly promised me mine…I kept my promise. Herr Eckert breached that confidentiality. I did not.”
The committee ultimately dismissed her complaint, finding there were “no grounds to justify the opening of disciplinary proceedings” given “the breach of confidentiality claim had no substance.” Clearly disappointed, Ms. Almajid criticized FIFA’s “culture of self-protection” and said in a public statement “the conclusion of the FIFA Disciplinary Committee dismissing my complaint against Herr Eckert for breaching my confidentiality is a transparent avoidance of a clear violation of its own rules.” She continued, “Woe be to any other person who cares enough to risk personal safety to report FIFA corruption.”
Surprisingly, Ms. Almajid does not believe that Qatar should be stripped of its right to host the World Cup, citing evidence that every bidding country was engaged in some sort of unethical behavior. She said, citing Garcia’s report, “the problem is not with the bidding nations but underlines a much deeper problem within FIFA itself. If all countries played the same unethical game, isn’t it maybe what FIFA expects? And therefore, no, I do not think that Qatar should lose the right to host the World Cup because they didn’t do anything any other country didn’t do – they only had deeper pockets.”
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