João Havelange has resigned as Honorary President of FIFA after being officially found guilty of taking bribes, but his successor as head of football’s world governing body, Sepp Blatter, has been cleared of breaking any ethics rules, with his handling of the situation classified as “clumsy.”
The long-awaited reported by FIFA’s Ethics Committee into the scandal involving collapsed marketing partners ISL has named Havelange and two former Executive Committee members Ricardo Teixeira and Nicolas Leoz as receiving bribes, when it was published today.
All three have since resigned from FIFA.
The report by FIFA Adjudicatory Chamber chairman Hans-Joachim Eckert called Blatter’s handling of the scandal “clumsy” but says it did not breach ethics rules.
The report states: “Mr Havelange has long held solely an honorary position, which does not qualify him as an ‘official’ under the code of ethics.
“Further, Mr Havelange resigned his position as Honorary President effective 18.04.2013.”
But, it described the behavior of Havelange as “morally and ethically reproachable” in his dealings with ISL, FIFA’s former marketing partner which went bankrupt in 2001.
Blatter issued a statement immediately upon publication of the report.
“I also note with satisfaction that this report confirms that ‘President Blatter’s conduct could not be classified in any way as misconduct with regard to any ethics rules’,” he said. “I have no doubt that FIFA, thanks to the governance reform process that I proposed, now has the mechanisms and means to ensure that such an issue – which has caused untold damage to the reputation of our institution – does not happen again.”
Blatter is criticized in the report but is cleared of acting corruptly.
“It must be questioned, however, whether President Blatter knew or should have known over the years before the bankruptcy of ISL that ISL had made payments [bribes] to other FIFA officials,” it says.
The report reveals that in 1997, Blatter authorized the transfer of 1.5million Swiss francs (£1 million/$1.5 million/€1.2 mllion) to Havelange after ISL mistakenly sent it to FIFA.
Blatter, then general secretary of the organization when Havelange was President, told the ethics investigation “at that time he did not suspect the payment was a commission.”
“President Blatter’s conduct could not be classified in any way as misconduct with regard to any ethics rules,’ says the report. “The conduct of President Blatter may have been clumsy because there could be an internal need for clarification, but this does not lead to any criminal or ethical misconduct.”
The ethics report does not state the total sum of bribes paid but says they took place over eight years between 1992 and May 2000.
Court documents state Havelange, now aged 96, received at least $1.5 million (£1 million/€1.2 mllion) and Teixeira at least $13 million (£8 million/€10 million), and in total the pair may have received up to $22 million (£14.5m/€17 million). Leoz, now aged 84, was named in court as having received at least $123,000 (£80,000/€95,000).
“From money that passed through the ISMM/ISL Group, it is certain that not inconsiderable amounts were channelled to former FIFA President Havelange and to his son-in-law Ricardo Teixeira as well as to Dr. Nicolas Leoz, whereby there is no indication that any form of service was given in return by them,” the report says. “These payments were apparently made via front companies in order to cover up the true recipient and are to be qualified as ‘commissions’, known today as ‘bribes.'”
To read the full report click here.
Contact the writer of this story at firstname.lastname@example.org. Inside the Games is an online blog of the London Organizing Committee that staged the 2012 London Games. The blog continues to cover issues that are important to the Olympic Movement. This article is reprinted here with permission of the blog editors.