FIFA official Michel D'Hooghe cleared in World Cup ethics case

ZURICH -- FIFA's longest-standing executive committee member, Belgian doctor Michel D'Hooghe, has been cleared of four allegations of wrongdoing in the 2018 and 2022 World Cup bidding contests.

FIFA said Tuesday that the judging chamber of its ethics committee "is satisfied that no further investigation is needed."

D'Hooghe, who joined FIFA's ruling board 27 years ago, denied any misconduct in the bidding contests. His native Belgium was a losing candidate in a joint bid with the Netherlands for the 2018 hosting rights won by Russia.

A painting given to him by Russian former board colleague Vyacheslav Koloskov "has no commercial value, as confirmed by two appraisals, and was offered as a friendly gesture," FIFA said.

A FIFA statement suggested that a prosecution file submitted by former FIFA ethics investigator Michael Garcia was not decisive because it dealt with the same evidence considered by his predecessor, Claudio Sulser, in 2011.

"Therefore, proceedings will not be re-opened in the absence of any new and convincing evidence that a violation of the FIFA Code of Ethics has occurred," FIFA said.

The piece of art has never been identified by D'Hooghe or FIFA.

The ethics investigation also dismissed claims that D'Hooghe helped his son, also a doctor, to get a job at the Aspetar medical clinic in Qatar several months after the World Cup votes in December 2010.

An allegation that D'Hooghe "had attempted to help secure a business opportunity in Qatar for the son of a close friend," was also dismissed.

The fourth allegation related to a visit to an unnamed bidding country, which D'Hooghe was judged to have made in his duty as chairman of FIFA's medical committee.

The FIFA ethics committee is widely reported to be studying prosecution cases involving three other past or present current FIFA board members: Franz Beckenbauer of Germany, current FIFA vice president Angel Maria Villar of Spain and Worawi Makudi of Thailand.