New revelations: FIFA Executives named as ISL bribe-takers

FIFA's headquarter in Zürich. Photo by Flickr user julianlimjl used under a Creative Commons License 2,0

29.11.2010

By Jens Weinreich
Three days before the election of the hosts of the 2018 and 2022 football World Cups, new documents have appeared that bring heavy charges against top FIFA officials.

ZÜRICH. At least three current members of the executive committee of football’s world governing body have over the years collected millions of dollars in bribes from the former sports marketing agency ISL / ISMM: Ricardo Teixeira, President of Brazil's Football Federation (CBF) and of the 2014 World Cup Organising Committee, Nicolas Léoz of Paraguay, President of the South American Football Confederation (CONMEBOL), and Issa Hayatou from Cameroon, President of the African Football Confederation (CAF).

Regarding Teixiera and Léoz, other irregularities were already known, but the name of Hayatou is new. All three will meet Thursday in Zurich and take part in the voting on the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.
"Bribe receivers cast their votes" said the Zurich newspaper Tages-Anzeiger in a headline today.

The former long-serving FIFA President Joao Havelange, once father-in-law of Ricardo Teixeira, also appears on the list which covers the years between 1989 and 1999 and a total of 175 payments worth 122,587,308.93 Swiss francs.

There is no doubt about the authenticity of the document that the author and investigative reporter Andrew Jennings has uncovered for the BBC programme Panorama (broadcast tonight Monday 29 November at 20.30 CET), for during the ISL court procedure in the spring of 2008 in the Swiss town of Zug, one of the judges, Marc Siegwart, spoke smugly about bribes of 120 million Swiss francs in those years.
 
On top of that, the prosecutors in Zug had already documented another 18 million Swiss francs, which were paid by the ISL group from 1999-2001 to top sports officials. All in all 140 million Swiss francs were paid out - and this is just the tip of the iceberg. For this money, these top officials from various sports organisations, not only FIFA, ensured orders worth billions for the ISL / ISMM: Sponsorship contracts, marketing rights, TV rights. Most payments were funnelled through front companies and foundations in many countries. The ISL system of corruption was spelled out in a criminal proceeding against six long-time ISL executives in the court of Zug in 2008.

Numerous cash payments were also part of the business; the bribe couriers never had problems bringing bulging suitcases across the border, for instance to pass money from Liechtenstein to Zurich.

One of the ISL-managers testified in court: "All these payments were necessary to even get contracts and to make them [the sports officials] stick to it." Another said: "It was like paying salaries. Otherwise they would have stopped working immediately."

In June 2010, a deal between prosecutors in Zug and FIFA was settled. FIFA paid 5.5 million Swiss francs to the Swiss Treasury – and the investigation was discontinued. The names of the corrupt officials were supposed to remain secret forever. Now some of these names have become publicly known, as have the names of several companies and foundations.

The biggest corruption scandal in the history of sport keeps spreading and has now reached the International Olympic Committee (IOC). Besides Havelange, doyen of the IOC, Hayatou is also an IOC member. Moreover, according to the document, the Senegalese Lamine Diack also collected money from the ISL. Diack, treated as a future president in his home country, has been President of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) since 1999 and is through this capacity an IOC member.

Top earner is the Brazilian Ricardo Teixeira, who, through front companies, has received around 9.5 million dollars from the ISL since 1999. Between 1999 and 2001, he collected another 2.5 million dollars, which has been known since 2008.

Teixeira's records are legend and included in investigation reports by the Brazilian Parliament. But Teixeira enjoys double protection: at home by politics, and in FIFA by President Joseph Blatter.

Only two weeks ago, the Brazilian magazine "Lance" revealed that Teixeira as President of CBF and head of the 2014 World Cup Organising Committee has signed contracts with himself. The World Cup is organized by a company that belongs 99.9 percent to the CBF and 0.1 percent to Teixeira – the sharing of any World Cup profits is decided by Teixeira alone, regardless of the distribution of shares.

The IOC and its so-called Ethics Committee have never paid much attention to this issue or to how FIFA always pointed out that receiving bribes in Switzerland between 1989 and 2001 was not illegal. In fact, it still isn’t: However, a corruption network as the one seen within the ISL Group, would now be covered by the law on unfair competition and as such be punishable. But sports officials and their billion-dollar corporations like FIFA and the IOC, which most often reside in Switzerland, further enjoy the legal status of associations, and are thus not covered by anti-corruption rules.

The receipt of payments, such as bribery in connection with the awarding of the two FIFA World Cups this Thursday, seems from a legal point of view to be internal affairs for FIFA. Two weeks ago, the FIFA Ethics Committee suspended two executive members and four other officials, who were revealed as corruptible after investigations made by the Sunday Times.

As for the IOC doyen Joao Havelange, the document shows a payment of 1.5 million Swiss francs on 3 March 1997. This happened nine months after the ISL group, together with Munich media entrepreneur Leo Kirch, under scandalous circumstances had acquired the TV selling rights for the 2002 and 2006 World Cups for 2.8 billion Swiss francs. In 1997, under equally suspicious circumstances, the ISL also secured the marketing of World Cup sponsorship rights worth just under a billion Swiss francs.

Nicolas Léoz, President of CONMEBOL since 1986 and tied in closely with Teixeira and Havelange, is said to have received 864.000 Swiss francs in bribes - plus 211.625 Swiss francs which has been known for a while. Compared to this, the bribes collected by IOC members Hayatou and Diack were mere peanuts.

In 1995, Hayatou received 24.700 Swiss francs in cash. Diack received three cash payments of 52.680 Swiss francs in total. Interestingly, the bribe bagman of the ISL Group, its former chief executive, Jean-Marie Weber, to this day works for Hayatou and Diack, that is, for the African Football Federation (CAF), headed by Hayatou and for the world governing body for Athletics (IAAF), headed by Lamine Diack. 



More information, see http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-11841783

Read up on Play the Game's coverage of the ISL case

 

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