Europe Lawmakers Slam FIFA President on Bribe Case
Bern, Switzerland. FIFA president Sepp Blatter was criticized by a European lawmakers’ advisory group on Monday for his handling of a kickbacks scandal involving million-dollar payments from World Cup marketing deals to two FIFA officials.
A Council of Europe sports panel published Swiss prosecutor Thomas Hildbrand’s testimony that the ISL agency paid one official at least 12.74 million Swiss francs (now $13.9 million) and another 1.5 million Swiss francs in the 1990s.
Detailing Blatter’s employment with FIFA since 1975, the report said it was “difficult to imagine that Mr. Blatter would not have known about this,” even if he did not directly take any money.
“I believe it is extraordinary that [Blatter] did nothing to make public all the information [that] FIFA had or has, and took no steps whether internally or via the courts to enable FIFA to obtain reparation,” wrote report author Francois Rochebloine, a French national assembly member.
Blatter came under further fire on Monday from Rochebloine’s panel, which last month published an initial report on sports governance that attacked FIFA. Its findings will be debated today when parliamentarians from 47 Council of Europe member states meet in Strasbourg, France.
Lawmakers were urged to call on FIFA to publish immediately a Swiss court document identifying officials who took kickbacks, and investigate how Blatter was re-elected last June after rival candidate Mohamed bin Hammam was implicated in a bribery scandal.
“A detailed and exhaustive investigation is imperative,” Rochebloine wrote on Monday. “We have the right to know the truth, and ascertaining the truth can trouble only those who have something to hide.”
Blatter promised last October to release a dossier detailing which football officials repaid kickbacks in exchange for anonymity, then claimed he was blocked by an appeal to Switzerland’s supreme court by unidentified parties.
They are widely reported to be two Brazilian officials, former FIFA president Joao Havelange, and Havelange’s former son-in-law, Ricardo Teixeira, who resigned his football duties last month citing unspecified health issues.
However, the Council of Europe panel has now accepted Hildbrand’s view that nothing is stopping FIFA revealing the dossier’s contents. “It would therefore appear that FIFA is able to publish the document in question,” Rochebloine wrote. “For this reason, I now suggest that it be explicitly referred to in our draft resolution.”
The report portrays Blatter as being at the heart of FIFA’s activity since the 1970s, when, the report noted, “sport became an economic player.”
Hildbrand told lawmakers that selected sports officials were paid tens of millions of dollars in commission fees to help ensure television and sponsor contracts were awarded to favored clients.
One FIFA executive committee member, identified in the report as H., was the president of a South American football federation and “enriched himself” with at least 12.74 million Swiss francs — some transferred through accounts in Andorra, Hildbrand said.
The prosecutor said FIFA was the victim of money being withheld by H. and E., who together repaid millions through a law firm representing FIFA after former FIFA marketing partner ISL collapsed into bankruptcy in 2001.