FIFA ISL bribe scandal: Explained

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Another day, another FIFA scandal. This time it was the long-awaited release of court documents, published by the prosecutor in the Swiss canton of Zug, which revealed two of world football’s governing body’s officials had received millions of pounds worth of bribes.

Former president Joao Havelange and executive committee member Ricardo Teixeira were named as the two FIFA officials who had received £27 million in payments from ISL, the company awarded the TV rights for the 2002 and 2006 World Cup.

Confused as to how both men got away with their misdeeds for so long? Here is everything you need to know about the explosive ISL case that has rocked FIFA yet again.

First of all, who are the two men implicated?

Joao Havelange, the former President of FIFA and former executive committee member and Brazilian Football Confederation leader Ricardo Teixeira, who incidentally is Havelange’s former son-in-law, are the only two named in the document.

Havelange, 96, was President of FIFA from 1974 to 1998 and was succeeded by Blatter, who had been his general-secretary. Texeira stepped down from his position as head of Brazilian football last year because of ill health having led Brazil's succesful 2014 World Cup bid.

Havelange resigned his 48-year International Olympic Commitee membership, citing health reasons, in December last year - days before the Olympic body was due to sanction him following its own investigation into wrongdoing connected to ISL.

And what are they supposed to have done?

During Havelange’s spell as President, he granted a company called International Sports Media and Marketing (known as ISL) the exclusive TV and radio rights for the 2002 and 2006 World Cup. ISL paid FIFA £131 million for the marketing rights and £906 million for the TV rights, but subsequently went bust in 2001.

The company’s liquidators examined its finances and allegedly found payments, described as ‘commisions’ or ‘donations’, of 41 million Swiss francs over eight years to both men. The prosecutor also says a total of 37 million Swiss francs (£24 million) was paid to "individuals and decision makers of global sports".

And FIFA knew about this?

Allegedly so. The document reveals: "The finding that Fifa had knowledge of the bribery payments to persons within its organs is not questioned."

“This is firstly because various members of the executive committee had received money, and furthermore … a [1m Swiss francs] payment made to João Havelange was mistakenly directly transferred to a Fifa account."

The document also goes to great length to explain how a lawyer acting on FIFA’s behalf tried to have proceedings halted.

So they’re banged to rights?

Well it would seem so, although at the time ‘commercial bribery’ was not illegal in Switzerland at the time - and the fact is that the document relates to a case which has now closed so there is unlikely to be any further action against them.

The pair were initially tried but the case was stopped after efforts from FIFA, and also in part because the case dated back to 1995, and also because of HAvelange's age. The pair paid back a small amount of the money they received as part of the settlement. Teixeira paid 500,000 Swiss francs (£329,000) and Havelange paid 2.5m Swiss francs (£1.6m) back in 17 March 2004.

So FIFA will surely hold their hands up, and disband as a discredited organisation?

No chance. Sepp Blatter had his say on the issue today and he wasn’t exactly groveling.

He said: "Back then, such payments (like the ones received by Havelange and Teixeira) 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.”

Havelange is still ‘Honorary President’ of Fifa, something Blatter says he has no power to change. They have even tried to jump on the bandwagon and claim partial credit, saying the document has been exposed as part of their reform process having published it themselves.

So it was perfectly legal to take bribes a few years back?

In not so many words, and under Swiss law, yes. Commercial bribery was not illegal, but prosecutors argued that the payments made to both counted as a criminal breach of duty.

But isn’t Blatter himself implicated?

Yes and no. According to the legal document, Blatter was found to have known about the bribes yet sought to have a prosecution of it and the two executives settled, paying back a ‘small portion’ of the money. However, during the case he was known as ‘P1’, one of the pseudonyms used to protect the identity of those not accused of any wrongdoing.

Why has this come about now?

The documents were released to five media organisations after a lengthy battle to make them public. They relate to the case in which criminal proceedings were bought against FIFA, which were dropped in May 2010 when the governing body paid 2.5 million Swiss francs (£1.64 million) in order to end the case. The Swiss Supreme Court ordered the release of the dossier.


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