- Associated Press - Wednesday, November 30, 2011

ZURICH (AP) - FIFA should consider suspending officials who are under criminal investigation as part of its effort to clean up the organization, an independent anti-corruption expert hired by the govering body said Wednesday.

Swiss professor Mark Pieth said FIFA also should examine ways to make the election of its presidents more transparent and impose term limits for officials to avoid entrenched loyalties resulting in favors being swapped.

“We are talking about serious stuff here and not everybody will like this,” Pieth said at FIFA headquarters to present a preliminary report containing proposed reforms.

Pieth said the opening of an official probe against FIFA committee members or employees could become a threshold for putting their involvement at FIFA on hold.

Calls have grown for FIFA to tighten its ethics rules following allegations of bribe-taking by senior officials, including executive committee members.

Prosecutors in Brazil have said they will investigate FIFA executive member Ricardo Teixeira for money laundering and tax crimes. Teixeira is the head of the 2014 World Cup organizing committee. He’s been linked to a bribery scandal at FIFA’s former marketing partner ISL, which owned World Cup television rights until its 2001 bankruptcy.

Pieth said it would be up to FIFA to decide whether to accept the proposals that will be submitted before the annual members meeting in May.

FIFA President Sepp Blatter said Tuesday that he intended to honor his promise to members and governments to reform the structure of the organization and make it more transparent.

Pieth, whose previous jobs have included investigating the U.N.’s oil-for-food scandal in Iraq and advising the Swiss government on new laws to combat money laundering, said he saw his role akin to that of coaching a troubled squad.

“We are coaches in bringing them back to the road of virtue,” said Pieth, adding that he wouldn’t be looking too closely at the past.

Pieth told The Associated Press that claims surround the rigging of votes to host the World Cup and other allegations needed to be investigated, but not by his committee.

“I have to take a decision,” Pieth said. “I either go into the past or into the future.”

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