FIFA probe begins


ZURICH, November 15- FIFA's ethics committee was meeting for three days from Monday to probe allegations of corruption and collusion in the race to host football's 2018 and 2022 World Cups, as a new twist to the controversy emerged.A Swiss newspaper reported on Monday that Qatar’s 2022 bid committee recruited a major private investigation agency to probe figures at the centre of reported allegations of collusion between Qatar and Spain-Portugal’s bids.

England, Russia and joint bids by Spain-Portugal and Netherlands-Belgium are in the running to host the 2018 World Cup, alongside Australia, United States, Japan, Qatar, Russia and South Korea for 2022.

The vote by the executive committee of world football’s governing body on December 2 to choose the hosts has been clouded by British newspaper allegations of possible vote buying and illicit collusion between some of the bidders.

FIFA has pledged zero tolerance, suspending two members of the 24-strong executive committee as well as four other footballing officials pending the outcome of the ethics probe, which is shrouded in secrecy.

A FIFA spokesperson confirmed that the ethics committee meeting was taking place behind closed doors from Monday over three days but declined to give further details.

The governing body later scheduled a press conference for Thursday (1000GMT).

The daily Tages-Anzeiger reported on Monday that Qatar had asked US giant Kroll last month to investigate the "backgrounds, activities and reputations" of ex-FIFA Secretary General Michel Zen-Ruffinen and another, African official, citing purported memos.

The Sunday Times ran reports and video extracts last month by undercover journalists posing as lobbyists, including one on October 24 with remarks by Zen-Ruffinen about Spain-Portugal and Qatar’s bids.