Bloomberg News

FIFA May Seek to Identify Soccer Bribe Takers, Advisor Says

October 20, 2011

(Adds Schenk comment in fourth paragraph; Platini comment in 10th paragraph.)

Oct. 20 (Bloomberg) -- Soccer’s governing body may ask a Swiss court to identify senior officials who took money from its former marketing partner ISL, which went bankrupt in 2001, an adviser to FIFA said.

FIFA President Sepp Blatter is considering the move as he seeks to reform following corruption scandals and amid questions about awarding the $4 billion World Cup to Russia and Qatar, according to Sylvia Schenk, an official with Transparency International, who’s been advising the organization about changes to its governance.

“FIFA can write to the court and say there’s public interest and we want the ISL files to be disclosed,” Schenk said in an interview.

Asked if FIFA was discussing asking for the release of documents that may implicate serving officials with bribery, Schenk said, “I know so.”

Blatter, elected to a fourth term after his challenger Mohamed Bin Hammam quit before being banned for life for suspected vote-buying, has vowed to “deal with the past.” He’s announcing reforms tomorrow.

The prosecutor’s office in the Swiss canton of Zug released a statement last June that said “foreign persons of FIFA- institutions have received provisions” from ISL, without disclosing their names. FIFA agreed to pay 5.5 million Swiss francs ($6.15 million) in compensation, of which 2.5 million francs would go to charities on condition the names of the individuals were not revealed.

Life Ban

After criticism from fans, sponsors and the media, Blatter, head of FIFA since 1998, promised to change FIFA’s governance in June. Since then, Bin Hammam has been given a life ban after a FIFA disciplinary body judged he’d tried to bribe soccer heads in the Caribbean and former FIFA vice president Jack Warner quit the sport before an investigation into his conduct could be completed. Several Caribbean officials have also been sanctioned.

FIFA has also agreed to change the way World Cup hosts are selected, extending the vote beyond executives to all 208 member associations. Two FIFA executives were suspended amid claims they offered to sell votes to undercover reporters purporting to represent the U.S.’s 2022 World Cup bid.

Blatter is discussing the reform proposals with FIFA executives today. Possible reforms that may be announced tomorrow could include limiting membership of the executive committee to two terms, strengthening the role of the ethics committee and taking the general secretary out of the process of referring rule breaches to investigators, Transparency International’s Schenk said.

Michel Platini, the head of European soccer’s governing body, met with other members of the executive committee from his continent to discuss the changes.

“FIFA has to have a better image and perhaps after a lot of years of a certain way of how to manage FIFA, perhaps it would be nice to have the new things promised by Mr. Blatter,” Platini said today. “I get the impression that Mr Blatter is really motivated to change something. We will see.”

Schenk has met the FIFA president three times since July 25. He’s promised not to stand for re-election so will not be afraid of pushing through unpopular reforms, she said.

“He has no more elections to come so he has nothing to lose from that point of view,” Schenk said. “He wants to be after his term a former president that’s honored, not someone who everybody says, ‘at last he’s gone’ and he’s left FIFA in chaos.”

--Editors: Alex Duff, Bob Bensch

To contact the reporters on this story: Tariq Panja in Zurich via London on tpanja@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Christopher Elser at celser@bloomberg.net


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