Blatter Under Fire Following Further ISL Scandal Revelations
April 23, 2012
Blatter's leadership is strongly criticised one month before his reforms aimed at cleaning up FIFA go before the FIFA Congress in Budapest (Getty)
(WFI) The Council of Europe has slammed Sepp Blatter's management of the ISL scandal in a report that reveals two senior FIFA officials received $15.5 million in kickbacks from the football governing body's now-defunct marketing partner.
Swiss prosecuting magistrate Thomas Hildbrand's testimony to the council about the demise of ISL, which distributed FIFA’s World Cup television rights, is included in the report published today by French national assembly member Francois Rochebloine.
The testimony claims one South American FIFA executive committee member, referred to as person H, received 12.7 million Swiss francs ($13.9m) between 1992 and 1997 and additional payments between 1998 and 2000.
"The payments made over a period of years were intended to make use of his influence within FIFA so that contractual relations came about between FIFA and Sports Holding AG, so as to ensure that he subsequently influenced the conclusion of sub-licensing contracts, as president of the Football Association of a South American country," the report states.
Another senior FIFA official of FIFA, known as person E, received transfers of at least 1.5 million Swiss francs ($1.6m) in 1997.
With Blatter at the heart of FIFA so long, rising from technical director to FIFA General Secretary (1981-1998) before his election as president 14 years ago, the report questions Blatter's claims that he had never known about the payments.
"Since FIFA was aware of significant sums paid to certain of its officials, it is difficult to imagine that Mr Blatter would not have known about this," the report said.
"That does not mean that he was directly involved in this case of backhanders. But I believe it is extraordinary that he did nothing to make public all the information which FIFA had or has, and took no steps whether internally or via the courts to enable FIFA to obtain reparation.
"As Mr Hildbrand clearly explained, FIFA was accused as an undertaking under Swiss law, but it was also a victim: the money paid under-the-counter to certain unscrupulous officials should have been paid to FIFA."
The report goes on to further criticise Blatter for statements he made to CNN last month in which the Swiss reportedly said the Council of Europe should address the problems it has on the continent not the problems of FIFA. Blatter said he did not understand why a political organisation in Europe or elsewhere in the world had the right to ask FIFA to enter into any activity, especially in relation to the FIFA presidential election, and questioned the meddling of politicians in the football governing body's affairs.
Rochebloine defended the Council of Europe by making three points.
"Mr Blatter is the president of FIFA, but he is not FIFA and he should not confuse what is in his own interest with what is in the interest of the organisation he is supposed to serve," he wrote.
"Asking FIFA to improve its governance, the transparency of its accounts and to take steps to shed light on the scandals which tarnish its image is hardly interference; it is just common sense.
"Lastly, the independence of sport – to which we remain committed – should not become a defence for
those who abuse their authority. It is wrong to have accusations without proof, but it is our duty to ask for the truth to be sought and established."
Ending his report, he added: "The money managed by FIFA is money that belongs to football and not to its officials, but in addition no sports organisation can become a place where the law does not apply and where corruption and fraud are in practice tolerated and go unpunished. What is at issue here is compliance with the rule of law."
The Council of Europe report is set to be discussed on Wednesday by its plenary assembly, which brings together 318 parliamentarians from the council's 47 member states.
By INSIDER editor Mark Bisson
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