PtG Article 05.03.2010

FIVB reimburses corruption crusader for part of legal costs

Goijman agrees deal with FIVB for partial reimbursement of legal costs incurred in the course of his struggle against corruption in international volleyball

Seven years into his uphill struggle against corruption in the International Federation of Volleyball (FIVB), Mario Goijman from Argentina has finally received financial compensation from FIVB. The federation has agreed to reimburse the Argentinian for part of his legal expenses in return for Goijman dropping his civil suit against FIVB.

The settlement is the first and small move in a case that began in 2002 when Goijman filed charges with a court in Lausanne against the then FIVB president Ruben Acosta and his secretary general Jean-Pierre Seppey for forgery and mismanagement of federation funds.

In 2002, Goijman was president of the Argentine Volleyball Federation that had organised the Men's Volleyball World Cup in 2002. A successful event, everyone agreed  - but the FIVB refused to pay the organisers in Argentina their share of FIVB's income from television broadcasting of the championships which left the organising committee with severe debts. 

Incensed by this betrayal, Goijman began looking into the financial affairs of the international volleyball federation and uncovered several examples of corruption and mismanagement of federation funds. The most serious case was an attempt to cover up that president Ruben Acosta had secured himself an amount of approximately six million US dollars in personal commissions on television contracts he signed on behalf of the FIVB.

When Goijman voiced his concerns about this case to the FIVB, he was promptly expelled from both national and international volleyball. And when the other members of the board of the Argentine Volleyball Federation protested against FIVB's treatment of Goijman, they were expelled too.

Goijman took the case to court in Switzerland - a case he eventually lost in 2006 - and at great personal costs he also started campaigning internationally against the corruption and bad governance of the FIVB. A campaign that earned him the Play the Game Award in 2005.

On the brink of bankruptcy

Seven years down the line, the former president of the former Argentinian Volleyball Federation is  on the brink of personal bankruptcy. And that is the main reason he has now entered into a settlement with the FIVB under the direction of its new president Jizhong Wei.

"I am in an extremely difficult economic situation now. I have spent around 500,000 US dollars fighting corruption in the FIVB, and the Banco Credicoop in Argentina is executing my guarantee for a loan of around 200,000 US dollars to the 2002 World Cup Organising Committee," explains Goijman.

"I accepted this deal because my situation was so critical that I needed whatever possible to reduce my crisis."

The two parties have entered into a confidentiality agreement about the exact details of the settlement, but information obtained by Play the Game suggests that the amount is less than half of the legal costs incurred by Goijman since 2002.

Still debts to payRuben Acosta stepped down as FIVB president after the Olympic Games in 2008 and passed the batton to Jizhong Wei. Wei has started a reform process in the organisation promising both democracy and transparency, and this regime change is probably one of the main reasons why the FIVB has offered Goijman a deal.

However, Jizhong Wei says to Play the Game that he does not want to comment on the settlement because of the confidentiality agreement.

As director for Play the Game, Jens Sejer Andersen has been following the conflict between FIVB and Mario Goijman closely for a long time. He says about the agreement that it is an important and promising step in the efforts by FIVB's new president, Jizhong Wei, to repair the damages caused by the dictatorial and greedy regime of Ruben Acosta.

"Wei is obviously facing internal resistance, and it has required real courage to enter into this agreement. But it is also absolutely necessary in order for the FIVB to rebuild trust in international volleyball's ability to govern itself in a responsible way," says Andersen.

Andersen stresses, however, that from an ethical point of view the FIVB still has a political, financial and moral debt to pay to Goijman and the expelled volleyball leaders from Argentina, Peru, Sweden and other countries.

"FIVB must pay the money it owes to the former Argentinian Volleyball Federation and also address the injustice perpetrated against volleyball leaders who dared criticise Ruben Acosta's leadership style," Andersen says.