FIFA to release financial-scandal documents

AP, Friday 21 Oct 2011

FIFA President Sepp Blatter promised Friday to release the files from a 10-year-old corruption scandal that could name senior officials who took millions of dollars in kickbacks.

FIFA president Sepp Blatter (Photo: Reuters)

FIFA has previously stopped a Swiss court from releasing documents identifying who received payments from the former ISL marketing agency, which collapsed in 2001.

On Friday, Blatter said his executive committee—including members implicated in the case—will reopen the ISL dossier at a Dec. 16-17 meeting in Tokyo.

“We will give this file to an independent organization outside of FIFA so they can delve into this file and extract its conclusions and present them to us,” Blatter said after a two-day session of his executive panel.

Dealing with the ISL allegations became a test of Blatter’s promised willingness to reform FIFA and world soccer after a slew of scandals involving bribery, vote-rigging and ticket scams.

Blatter announced an overhaul Friday of FIFA’s investigative and legal structures that he expects will take two years to complete—defining his fourth and final presidential term.

Three new task forces will report to Blatter’s previously announced“solutions committee,” which aims to promote good governance. Up to 18 members, drawn from politics and soccer, will be announced in Tokyo, but will not include former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger as previously suggested by Blatter.

“I think we have been ambitious in our road map,” Blatter said, insisting FIFA as an institution is “not corrupt.”

Blatter acted on extensive advice from Transparency International, a global anti-corruption watchdog that typically works with governments and corporations.

Sylvia Schenk, TI’s sports adviser who pushed Blatter to confront the lingering ISL problem, said she was satisfied with his commitment to change.

“I think they can deliver. It will be a catastrophe if they go back (on their promises),” Schenk said after watching Blatter’s news conference.

Blatter said his committee members were relaxed about reviving “this famous ISL case.”

“We are happy because we are moving forward,” he said. “Before the end of the year a big chunk of the concerns we had in the past … will be set behind us.”

Six ISL executives stood trial in Switzerland in 2008 charged with financial misdeeds over the agency’s collapse with debt of $300 million. The bankruptcy jeopardized FIFA’s finances and left it scrambling to find new buyers for World Cup television and marketing rights.

The criminal court heard that ISL paid $100 million in kickbacks to sports officials, although commercial bribery was not then a crime in Switzerland. FIFA executive committee member Nicolas Leoz of Paraguay was named in court as receiving $130,000 in payments.

In 2010, FIFA reported that two senior soccer officials repaid kickbacks worth $7 million on condition of anonymity. FIFA has blocked the court in Zug from identifying them.

British broadcaster the BBC has reported that court documents name Blatter’s predecessor Joao Havelange of Brazil and Ricardo Teixeira, Havelange’s former son-in-law. Teixeira is an executive committee member and heads the 2014 Brazil World Cup organizing team.

Africa’s soccer president Issa Hayatou, of Cameroon, also has been identified as taking ISL payments of around $20,000, which he said were for his confederation.

Havelange and Hayatou, both IOC members, are being investigated by the Olympic body’s ethics commission using the BBC’s evidence.

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