PtG Article 29.09.2006

Swiss magistrate accuses FIFA official of taking bribes

Nicolás Leoz, a FIFA executive member and president of the South American football confederation Conmebol, has been accused by Swiss magistrates of receiving bribes in the amount of almost 212.000 Swiss francs. The claim comes in a Swiss investigating magistrate’s report relating to the collapse of the sports marketing company ISL/ISMM.

The British newspaper The Guardian has seen the report which refers to two payments made from ISL/ISMM to Nicolás Leoz in January and May 2000 respectively. The money was paid by an entity linked to ISL/ISMM called Sunbow SA.

According to the Guardian, the Swiss investigators say that the “qualification of these payments as bribes is based on the statements made by Jean-Marie Weber himself… and statements by Hans-Peter Weber.”

The two Webers are among six individuals who are investigated in Switzerland on charges including fraud, fraudulent bankruptcy and damage to creditor’s interest by reduction of assets. All deny the accusations.

Conmebol denies all allegations

In South America, Conmebol denies the allegations against its president. In a statement on Conmebol’s website the secretary general, the vice president and the treasurer say that no member of the organisation has ever received payments from Sunbow SA or been commercially involved with the company.

“Due to the gravity of the accusations, we reserve the right to take legal action,” the statement concludes.

Meanwhile president Nicolas Leoz told reporters in Asuncion that he never took part in financial matters for FIFA.

“I could hardly have taken part in negotiations with ISMM-ISL and even less influenced decisions,” he said.

FIFA itself does not want to comment on the Guardian’s story. FIFA spokesman Andreas Herren has told the Associated Press that he can not comment as the story refers to a report which FIFA has never seen.

Well-established practice of bribery

According to the Guardian, the investigating magistrate’s report also reveals a well-established practice of financial “inducements” to reputable personalities in sport.

One former ISMM executive, Christoph Malms, is quoted as saying “I was confronted with the fact that ISL had been engaging in such practices since the time of its foundation. Upon my repeated urgings to suspend the payment of inducements, it was made clear to me by Jean-Marie Weber … that this practice had led to commitments which were still in place.”

Most of the payments are not believed to be football-related, and it is believed no Swiss nationals – which would include FIFA president Sepp Blatter - were among football officials who took bribes from the ISL.

The report has now been passed on to local prosecutors although court proceedings have not yet taken place.

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