Anja Niedringhaus, Associated Press
ZURICH — FIFA will change the way it investigates corruption and is prepared to examine any "credible" evidence of past wrongdoing, president Sepp Blatter promised on Friday.
Hailing a "historic day for FIFA's reform process" after a series of scandals, Blatter said it would revamp its ethics committee to create separate investigating and prosecuting units with new, independent leaders.
Blatter said the proposal presented by FIFA's anti-corruption adviser Mark Pieth got strong backing from his executive committee, some of whom have recently been cleared of corruption allegations by the existing — and often maligned — ethics body.
"Unanimously they agreed to this new approach in our, let's say, efforts for more transparency and integrity," Blatter said at a news conference to reveal the latest advances in a promised two-year drive to clean up the world football body.
FIFA's reputation has been rocked by claims of bribery and vote-rigging that marred FIFA's presidential election campaign last year, and the 2018 and 2022 World Cup bidding contests which were voted on in December 2010.
The credibility of Blatter's organization was also harmed when the existing, single-chamber ethics committee failed to gather enough evidence to prosecute some allegations.
"FIFA has ... shown a lack of pro-active and systematic follow-up on allegations," Pieth wrote, in a report submitted to FIFA on behalf of his 13-member expert panel advising on transparency and clean government. "In some instances, allegations were insufficiently investigated."
The revamped ethics court could start work immediately after being approved by FIFA's 208 member nations in May.
"The new ethics committee will have the possibility to initiate investigation in case of credible allegations," Blatter said.
Pieth, a former United Nations investigator, recommended in his report that the new ethics body's "procedures and organizational measures will be applicable to past behavior."
One of Pieth's fundamental demands looks likely to be met, with FIFA set to allow outsiders unconnected to Blatter's so-called "football family" to oversee the judicial process.
FIFA said Pieth will choose three candidates to chair each of the investigative and judging chambers, and member countries will vote at the May 25 congress in Budapest, Hungary.
FIFA also will ask its congress to approve an audit and compliance committee exerting tighter financial controls on the world governing body, which shares much of its billion-dollar income with its member federations.
Blatter said the congress also should co-opt FIFA's first female member of the executive committee, which is currently a 24-man panel. A women-only election is foreseen at the 2013 FIFA Congress.
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