ZURICH: Ex-FIFA president Joao Havelange and his former son-in-law – and football heir – Ricardo Teixeira have been confirmed as recipients of illicit payments running into millions of dollars after the Swiss Supreme Court has ruled that the media should have access to the contentious ISL file writes KEIR RADNEDGE.
The court documents, originally declared sealed and confidential by the Zug cantonal court, were always known to have identitied senior sports officials paid under-the-counter sums by the marketing company which was declared bankrupt more than a decade ago.
Teixeira is shown to have received the present-day equivalent of $13m between 1992-97 while Havelange received a payment of 1.5 million Swiss francs in 1997 (then around $1m).
Payments attributed to accounts connected to the two Brazilians totalled almost 22m Swiss francs (now $14m) between 1992 and 2000.
For almost two decades ISL, founded originally in 1982 by the late Adidas heir Horst Dassler, was all-powerful marketing partner of both world football federation FIFA and the International Olympic Committee.
After its bankruptcy in 2001 reliable reports emerged of payments which had been made to senior sports – and particularly football – directors in exchange for influence over the outcome of negotiations for World Cup television rights.
Last year the IOC sanctioned two of its members – African football president Issa Hayatou and world athletics leader Lamine Diack – for having accepted funds from ISL. Brazilian Havelange, former long-serving FIFA president, escaped IOC justice by resigning his membership shortly before an ethics committee hearing.
Havelange and Teixeira – until earlier this year president of both the Brazilian football confederation and the country’s 2014 World Cup organising authority – had sought for years to prevent release of the ISL file. The closure of that file had been ordered in Zug, where ISL was based, in exchange for the repayment into court of sums listed.
Media pressure through the Swiss legal system for the release of the file was maintained, among others, by the business newspaper Handelszeitung and the BBC. This was endorsed by the governance expert Mark Pieth when he was commissioned last year by FIFA to oversee a structural reform process.
Subsquently FIFA, which had been a party to opposing the release of the ISL file, withdrew from the case. The Swiss Supreme Court reached a decision on July 3 and the written judgment, ordering publication, has now been published. FIFA has welcomed the latest court order.*
Remarkably, in the Swiss legal context, the court ordered that the role of the media in exposing corruption, was a significant factor in the decision.
The 11-page judgment recalled that the document was sealed in May 2010 and that attempts to reveal the names of those identified were considered (and rebuffed) on one appeal or another, for one reason or another, three times in 2011. A further appeal was laid before the Supreme Court this past March.
FIFA is pleased that the ISL non-prosecution order can now be made public, following the decision announced today by the Swiss Federal Court to allow the publication of the document by the Prosecutor of Zug.
This decision by the Federal Court is in line with what FIFA and the FIFA President have been advocating since 2011, when world football’s governing body announced its commitment to the publication of the ISL non-prosecution order. This announcement was part of a process of reforms launched at the FIFA Congress in June 2011, the roadmap for which was approved by the FIFA Executive Committee on 21 October 2011.
The decision of the Swiss Federal Court also confirms that only two foreign officials will be named as part of the process and that, as previously communicated by the Prosecutor of Zug in June 2010, the FIFA President is not involved in the case (no Swiss person involved). The Federal Court states in its decision, on page 3, point B.1.4: “the names of several non-accused third parties, whether natural or legal persons, will not be disclosed, and will be made anonymous in the non-prosecution order, with the exception of the names ISMM/ISL”.
As confirmed by the Federal Court in its decision made public today, FIFA was not a party to the appeal process dealt with by the Swiss Federal Court.