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Toronto lawyer named to FIFA panel on bribery allegations

FIFA has been mired in controversy, including allegations that millions in bribes were paid in connection with the awarding of the World Cup to Russia in 2018 and Qatar in 2022. Qatar's bid included models for a dozen stadiums, including this one.

Osama Faisal/Associated Press/Osama Faisal/Associated Press

Toronto lawyer James Klotz, an expert with an international reputation on combatting bribery, has been named to a panel set up to recommend fixes for soccer's scandal-plagued global governing body, FIFA.

The Swiss-based International Association Football Federation, which is known by its French initials, has been mired in controversy, including allegations that millions in bribes were paid in connection with the awarding of the World Cup – the world's single biggest sports event – to Russia in 2018 and Qatar in 2022.

Mr. Klotz, a partner at Miller Thomson LLP, is one of several international experts brought onto FIFA's new independent governance committee chaired by Mark Pieth, a law professor at the University of Basel who helped probe the Iraq oil-for-food program. (Among them is another Canadian, Alexandra Wrage, head of anti-corruption group Trace International.)

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Mr. Klotz, who flew to Zurich last month for the panel's first meetings with FIFA officials, said the committee would make recommendations for new anti-corruption rules. But he said it would also evaluate whether FIFA had conducted proper investigations of past allegations and call for renewed probes if warranted.

He said FIFA appears committed to reform. "They have brought in serious people," he said of his panel. "Ultimately [our]committee reports to FIFA with its recommendations. And if FIFA chooses not to follow them, the committee will probably be very vocal."

FIFA's move comes as governments and corporations around the world pay more attention to bribery. Mr. Klotz, 53, said the focus has been a long time coming. He started his career as a business lawyer doing international deals, and said "suitcases full of cash" were not unheard of.

"As an international business lawyer, particularly in the eighties and nineties, you got to see a lot of corruption," he said.

He first called for Canada to bring in a law banning foreign bribes in 1994, six years before one finally came into force. It would be another decade before the RCMP ramped up its enforcement. In a widely watched development last year, Calgary-based Niko Resources Ltd. paid a $9.5-million fine after pleading guilty to bribing a Bangladeshi official.

"I was saying for years and years that this was coming. I felt like a broken record for many years, because I kept saying it and nothing was happening," Mr. Klotz said. "And fairly rapidly, things have started to happen."

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Toronto City Hall Reporter

Jeff Gray is The Globe and Mail’s Toronto City Hall reporter. He has worked at The Globe since 1998. From 2010 to 2016, he was the law reporter in Report on Business, covering Bay Street law firms and white-collar crime. He won an honourable mention at the National Magazine Awards for investigative journalism in 2010. More

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