KEIR RADNEDGE in London: Sepp Blatter has insisted he has no reason to reproach himself for his behaviour as senior administrator within FIFA while Joao Havelange and Ricardo Teixeira were creaming off $14m in bribes from marketing partner ISL.
Confirmation that illicit payments were made to Havelange, still the world federation’s honorary president, and Teixeira, his runaway ex-son-in-law, came when the ISL file was released for public scrutiny by the Swiss Supreme Court on Wednesday.
ISL had been FIFA’s marketing partner for 20 years until its collapse into bankruptcy in 2001. For most of the succeeding years Havelange and Teixeira, supported initially by FIFA, had sought to keep all documentary proof of their deals confidential. The nature of the vast sums involved was laid bare by the ISL file.
Blatter was subsequently development officer, general secretary and then chief executive of FIFA for the entirety of the two ISL decades. The court report into the ISL affair insisted that other senior figures within FIFA knew about the monies being channeled to Havelange and Teixeira.
However Blatter, in a five-question interview on ‘house journal’ FIFA.com, denied that he should have considered any impropriety had taken place.
He confirmed that he is the official referred to as P1 in the court report, insisted that ‘commission payments’ were not illegal at that time and proclaimed the current reform process as an attempt to prevent any such recurrence of ISL-type incidents.
As for whether Havelange should continue as honorary president, Blatter said this was not a matter within his power to decide but only for FIFA’s annual congress.
FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter spoke to FIFA.com about the ISL case in the wake of yesterday’s decision by the Swiss Federal Court to allow publication of the document by the Prosecutor of Zug.
Mr Blatter, are you P1?
Yes, that is me.
Why all this anonymity? That means the speculation will never stop…
It was the Swiss Federal Court that decided to make the publication of the ISL non-prosecution order anonymous. As far as I am concerned, the whole document could have been published ‘clean’, to put an end to the speculation once and for all. However, the Federal Court stated that the “names of all non-accused third parties” should be made anonymous. I am not accused, so I have been made anonymous as P1, which quite honestly is not difficult to find out.
You’re supposed to have known.
Known what? That commission was paid? Back then, such payments could even be deducted from tax as a business expense. Today, that would be punishable under law. You can’t judge the past on the basis of today’s standards. Otherwise it would end up with moral justice. I can’t have known about an offence that wasn’t even one.
The case has been closed from a legal point of view. But isn’t there still an ethical question to be answered?
Of course. That is why we have started to strengthen our control mechanisms: to prevent something like this happening in the future. The Ethics Committee, which was created in 2006 on my initiative, is a direct result of the ISL case. The reform process is moving exactly in this direction.
To strengthen FIFA’s judicial system, some important steps have already been taken with the introduction of a two-chamber system – an adjudicatory body and an investigatory body. The Executive Committee will appoint the chairmen of these two chambers next week.
Ricardo Teixeira and Joao Havelange are named in the ISL non-prosecution order. Teixeira has resigned from the Executive Committee, but Havelange is still Honorary President. Will you call him to account?
I don’t have the power to call him to account. The Congress named him as Honorary President. Only the Congress can decide his future.
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