NEW YORK – Soccer's governing body has no intention at this time to investigate a former World Cup referee arrested this week on a drug smuggling charge.
Bryon Moreno, who made a series of controversial decisions in the 2002 second-round match that saw South Korea eliminate Italy, was caught Monday at John F. Kennedy Airport with bags of heroin attached to his body, according to U.S. federal prosecutors.
Italian players and officials had long labeled his calls against them suspicious, and some voiced their complaints again this week.
"The arrest of Byron Moreno appears to be completely unrelated to football," FIFA said in a statement Thursday to The Associated Press. "Mr. Moreno is not an international referee since several years now. At the time of writing, no investigation is foreseen from (the) FIFA side."
His lawyer, Michael Padden, said Thursday that Moreno would not address question's about his decisions in the South Korea-Italy match.
"Under the current circumstances, Mr. Moreno will not be making any public statements about any subject," Padden said in an e-mail.
Franco Carraro, an International Olympic Committee member and the president of Italian soccer's governing body in 2002, said the arrest proved Moreno had problems.
"I fear that drugs didn't have much to do with what Moreno did in the 2002 Italy-South Korea game," Carraro said. "His refereeing was atrocious, perhaps for inability, but more probably for other reasons."
Moreno ejected Francesco Totti for an alleged dive 13 minutes into overtime, and South Korea used the man advantage to score in the 117th minute and win 2-1. South Korea received a penalty kick in the game's opening minutes for a foul by Christian Panucci against Seol Ki-Hyeon, but it was saved. A 111th-minute goal by Italy's Damiano Tommasi that would have advanced Italy was disallowed, apparently for an offside.
FIFA opened an investigation into Moreno in September 2002 after a controverial domestic match in Ecuador in which he added 13 minutes of stoppage time without registering it. Moreno was suspended for 20 matches by Ecuadorean authorities, but FIFA closed its probe the following January saying there was no proof of any violation of FIFA regulations "from a disciplinary perspective."